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.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - The Players Championship
  • If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

    By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

    NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

    She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

    You don’t believe it, though.

    She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

    Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

    Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

    “In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

    Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

    Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

    At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

    She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

    She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

    And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.


    CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


    There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

    Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

    It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

    Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

    Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

    “I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

    About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

    Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

    “She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

    David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

    “She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

    Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

    Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

    “Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

    Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

    “It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

    Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

    “No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

    Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

    National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

    The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

    Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

    These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

    Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

    By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

    This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

    “I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

    In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

    If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.

    “He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

    Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

    By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

    Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

    ''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

    The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

    The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    ''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

    Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

    ''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

    First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

    Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

    ''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

    ''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''