Holmes a Rookie Who is Feeling Like a Veteran

By Associated PressMarch 21, 2006, 5:00 pm
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- The Players Championship is the kind of week that makes J.B. Holmes realize how quickly his life has changed.
 
A year ago, he was a senior at Kentucky watching on television as Fred Funk saved par from the bunker on the last hole to win the richest prize on the PGA Tour. Holmes knows a little about the TPC at Sawgrass. He has played it on a video game, and he played nine holes last year after a college match across the street at Sawgrass Country Club.
 
J.B. Holmes
J.B. Holmes is playing in his first PLAYERS Championship.
But the circumstances were entirely different Tuesday.
 
He is the only rookie in the 144-man field that tees off Thursday, and they don't offer invitations. The Players Championship, known in these parts as the fifth major, is for players who finished in the top 125 on the money list last year, who won majors in the last five years or who are PGA Tour winners.
 
That's where Holmes comes in.
 
The first player in 22 years to win medalist honors at Q-school straight out of college, Holmes needed only four starts to capture his first PGA Tour title, overpowering the TPC of Scottsdale to win the FBR Open by seven shots. He is 11th on the PGA Tour money list, and a good week at Sawgrass could earn him a ticket to the Masters.

'Last year I was in college,' he said. 'It's all been a big change really fast for me, and I'm still trying to adjust.'
 
The first step is figuring out the Stadium Course.
 
Since moving to this Pete Dye creation in 1982, The Players Championship has had a variety of winners -- the power of Tiger Woods, Davis Love III, David Duval, Greg Norman and Adam Scott; the solid iron play of Nick Price, Hal Sutton and Steve Elkington; control players such as Funk and Justin Leonard.
 
The par 72 is only 7,093 yards, relatively short by today's standards. Stranger still is that in an era where tees often are pushed back to cope with the big bashers, this one hasn't changed in eight years.
 
It is a complete test because of the angles required off the tee, precision into the greens that are severely contoured and the pressure of the final three holes, none greater than the island green for the par-3 17th.
 
'I do think the course doesn't favor any one style of play,' Phil Mickelson said. 'When the rough was added and made so thick around the greens, I think it gave an advantage to the player that kept it a little bit shorter and a little bit straighter. But because the greens are small and tough to hit, there's an advantage to a guy who can hit a little bit longer. Whoever is playing well is the guy that has the advantage.'
 
Holmes falls under the power category.
 
He overwhelmed the field in Phoenix, hitting his final tee shot over a lake meant to guard the left side of the fairway. But the 23-year-old rookie knows there is more to golf than distance.
 
'Everyone thinks we can just hit it a mile,' Holmes said, referring to himself, Camilo Villegas and Bubba Watson. 'You've got to putt out here. You can hit it a long ways, but being able to putt is the biggest advantage. You've got to have a short game, you can't just hit it long.'
 
Make no mistake, though. Holmes can hit it long.
 
And he has been doing that a long time.
 
Holmes fell in love with golf by sitting on the sofa with his father, watching on television. He was so good at such a young age, that he made the high school team in Campbellsville, Ky., when he was in the third grade.
 
'My dad just called the coach, and there wasn't a whole lot of people playing golf then,' Holmes said. 'He said, 'What do you need to shoot to play on the team?' He (the coach) said, 'He needs to shoot 50 on nine holes.''
 
Holmes could do that. In fact, he was among the top two players on the team before he finished the sixth grade, and once he got through the teasing for being so young, he blossomed into a star at Kentucky. Holmes helped the United States win back the Walker Cup last summer in Chicago.
 
'I always swung hard when I was younger,' he said. 'Swung as hard as I could. Did it all the way until I was probably 15 or 16, and realized I didn't have to swing as hard as I could every time. It's easier to gear it back than it is to gear it up.'
 
The next lesson is adjusting to life on the road.
 
Among the changes for Holmes are traveling alone. His father flew from Kentucky for the final round in Phoenix to watch him win, but Holmes is too young and hasn't been on tour very long -- remember, he was studying for exams this time a year ago -- to meet enough people to have dinner.
 
He flies to the next city, to the next hotel.
 
'We're on the East Coast, and I know more people that might come out,' he said. 'This is the stuff I didn't know about. It's like I skipped my rookie year. It's early in the year, and I feel like I've been out here a while.'
 
Being the only rookie at The Players Championship might make him feel even older.
 
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    After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

    Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

    On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

    Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

    Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

    It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard


    On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

    There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

    He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

    His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

    Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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    Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

    By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

    With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

    He picked up one more No. 2, too.

    The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

    In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

    Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

    “It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

    Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

    Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

    He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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    Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

    Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

    Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

    His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

    “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

    Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

    Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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    Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

    By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

    Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

    Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

    What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

    Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

    Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

    Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

    Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

    Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

    Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry