For Holmes Stardom a Long Time in the Making

By Associated PressJanuary 6, 2007, 5:00 pm
PGA Tour (75x100)KAPALUA, Hawaii -- The image of Tiger Woods as a golf prodigy is the putt he made on the Mike Douglas show at age 2. For Phil Mickelson, it was the green his father built in their backyard for young Lefty to create shots with his short game.

J.B. Holmes' background in golf is best illustrated by his letterman's jacket from Taylor County High School in Kentucky.

'It was a red jacket, and it would have been gray if I had all my patches,' Holmes said after moving into weekend contention at the Mercedes-Benz Championship. 'Ten-year letterman. That's got to be some kind of record.'

That's right -- he spent 10 years on his high school golf team.

Holmes' first love was baseball, but that changed when he played his first junior tournament and won the first four times he teed it up. That's when his father approached the high school golf coach and asked if his son could try out for the team.

Holmes was in the third grade.

'They only had about four or five players on the team,' Holmes said. 'They said, 'Well, he has to shoot around 50 on nine holes.' So I went out there and played with the coach a little bit. I played on the team and got better.'

He was one of the top two players on the team in the fifth grade. By the eighth grade, he was hitting the ball 300 yards. He won the state title as a sophomore. And the letters and conference patches kept piling up.

'The first year was a little rough. A couple of guys picked on you, but high schoolers are just mean,' he said. 'I was a third-grader playing with high schoolers, so I learned not to get intimidated. I played the state championship through my senior year, so I was always playing with people older than me, and I was beating them.

'It didn't matter who they are. You just do your best and play your game and see what happens.'

The 24-year-old Holmes earned his ticket to Maui by winning the FBR Open in Phoenix last year with an awesome display of power, such as his 4-iron from 263 yards over the water on the par-5 15th that led to an eagle. He won so early, and did so little the rest of the year, that he became a forgotten rookie on the PGA TOUR.

Camilo Villegas drew attention for his magazine looks and his body contortions while trying to get parallel with the green when reading putts. The Colombian, however, didn't win a tournament. Rookie of the year went to Trevor Immelman of South Africa, even though he had been playing as a pro overseas for six years.

Holmes, however, was a rookie in the purest sense.

He spent four years at Kentucky, made the Walker Cup team that summer, was a medalist at Q-school in the fall to earn his card and was a winner before he could even get his feet wet on the PGA TOUR.

Then came the higher expectations, and the lack of experience. He played too many times in a row, got lonely being on his own for so long and didn't know the courses he was playing.

'I'm used to it now,' he said. 'I understand what's going on, and I've got a better feel.'

It's safe to say Holmes is a quick study.

He was an Academic All-American at Kentucky, an amazing accomplishment considering he was diagnosed with dyslexia not long after arriving on the Lexington campus.

His grades were atrocious as a freshman. However long it took Holmes to read two pages in a book, his buddies had read six. He studied hard and knew the answers on the test, but he had only 50 minutes, and could get through only half the questions.

'If you're guessing the rest of them, your grades are just not going to be that good,' he said.

The college worked with him, giving him extra time to complete tests. Holmes still had to work harder than anyone to read and learn all the material, but hard work never scared him.

'I think it helps me in golf,' he said. 'Dyslexia, you see pictures, you visualize real well. And in golf, a lot of that stuff is visualization. I picture shots really well.'

His next lesson is learning to play a full season on the PGA TOUR without wearing himself out.

The tour defines a rookie season as the year a player competes in his 10th tournament as a PGA TOUR member. That's why Immelman was eligible last year, why Todd Hamilton won the award in 2004 at age 39.

But even rookies like Eric Axley and Troy Matteson had a year or two playing the Nationwide Tour, traveling across the country, figuring out where to stay and learning new golf courses.

For Holmes, it was overwhelming at times, and it showed at the end of the year.

'I played a whole lot early, and at the end of the year I was burned out,' he said. 'That was the most golf I ever played in a single year. I'm used to play 12, 13 events a year, and I played like 27 and was gone over six months. That's a big change from being gone two months, and every time you leave you've got six of your buddies going with you.

'I didn't handle it as well as I would have liked.'

After winning in Phoenix, he didn't finish in the top 10 the rest of the year. He was sick the tail end of the year and didn't realize it until December, when he was told he had chronic tonsillitis and had his tonsils taken out. He lost weight, which he is slowly putting back on.

He is not worried about a sophomore slump.

'I'm 24,' he said. 'I think I have plenty of time to prove myself. I'm not too worried about that.'

Holmes has been proving himself his entire life, starting with his first varsity letter in the third grade.

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    Pepperell among co-leaders early in Qatar

    By Associated PressFebruary 22, 2018, 5:06 pm

    DOHA, Qatar – Eddie PepperellGregory Havret, and Aaron Rai made the most of calm early morning conditions at Doha Golf Club to set the pace in the opening round of the Qatar Masters at 7-under-par 65 on Thursday.

    Havret went bogey free, Pepperell made one bogey and eight birdies, while fellow English golfer Rai eagled his last hole to add to five birdies.

    One shot behind the leaders were four players, including former Ryder Cup player Edoardo Molinari of Italy and former champion Alvaro Quiros of Spain.

    Defending champion Jeunghun Wang of South Korea started with a 68, and Race to Dubai leader Shubhankar Sharma of India shot 69 despite a double bogey on the 15th hole.

    Full-field scores from the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters

    Pepperell, who is fast gaining a reputation on the European Tour for his irreverent tweets and meaningful blogs, showed his clubs can also do an equal amount of talking after missing cuts in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Malaysia.

    Pepperell birdied Nos. 10, 11, 14, 16 and 18 with a single blemish on 13 after starting on the back nine. He made three more birdies on his back nine.

    He was joined on top of the leaderboard by Havret, who made five birdies in six holes from the sixth, and Rai, who eagled the last.

    ''I surprised myself, really,'' said Pepperell, who finished third in Portugal and Netherlands last year.

    ''I've made some changes this week with personnel, so I've been working on a couple of new things and I surprised myself out there with how well I managed to trust it.

    ''I hit some quality tee shots, that's the area I feel that I've been struggling with a bit lately. We had a good time.

    ''It's definitely a bigger picture for me this week than tomorrow and indeed the weekend. I'm not overly-fussed about my early season form.”

    Molinari, a three-time champion on the tour including last year in Morocco, started with eight straight pars, and then made seven birdies in his last 10 holes, including a chip-in for birdie on the last.

    ''I hit every green apart from the last one. I hit a lot of fairways, I had a lot of chances for birdie,'' said Edoardo, the older brother of Francesco.

    ''Last week in Oman, I had a decent week, I had a bad first round and then three very good rounds. It's been the case for the last few weeks so my focus this week was to try and get a good start.''

    Oliver Fisher of England was the best among the afternoon groups with a 6-under 66, joining Molinari, Quiros and Germany's Marcel Schneider in a tie for fourth.

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    Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

    By Tiger TrackerFebruary 22, 2018, 4:45 pm

    Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

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    Honda Classic: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

    By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 22, 2018, 2:15 pm

    The PGA Tour heads back east to kick off the Florida Swing at PGA National. Here are the key stats and information for the Honda Classic. Click here for full-field tee times.

    How to watch:

    Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream:

    Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream:

    Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6PM ET

    Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6PM ET

    Purse: $6.6 million ($1,188,000 to the winner)

    Course: PGA National, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida (par-70; 7,140 yards)

    Defending champion: Rickie Fowler (-12) won by four, picking off his fourth PGA Tour victory.

    Notables in the field:

    Tiger Woods

    • Making his fourth start at the Honda Classic and his first since withdrawing with back spasms in 2014.

    • Shot a Sunday 62 in a T-2 finish in 2012, marking his lowest career final-round score on the PGA Tour.

    • Coming off a missed cut at last week's Genesis Open, his 17th in his Tour career.

    Rickie Fowler

    • The defending champion owns the lowest score to par and has recorded the most birdies and eagles in this event since 2012.

    • Fowler's last start was at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, where he failed to close a 54-hole lead. Fowler is 1-for-6 with 54-hole leads in his Tour career, with his only successful close coming at last year's Honda.

    • On Tour this year, Fowler is first in scrambling from the fringe, second in total scrambling and third in strokes gained around the green. 

    Rory McIlroy

    • It's been feast or famine for McIlroy at the Honda. He won in 2012, withdrew with a toothache in 2013, finished T-2 in 2014 and missed the cut in 2015 and 2016.

    • McIlroy ascended to world No. 1 with his victory at PGA National in 2012, becoming the second youngest player at 22 years old to top the OWGR, behind only Woods. McIlroy was later edged by a slightly younger 22-year-old Jordan Spieth.

    • Since the beginning of 2010, only Dustin Johnson (15) has more PGA Tour victories than McIlroy (13). 

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    Lexi, J. Korda part of four-way tie in Thailand

    By Associated PressFebruary 22, 2018, 1:01 pm

    CHONBURI, Thailand – Three-time tour winner Minjee Lee of Australia finished with a superb eagle putt to be among the four leaders after Day 1 of the LPGA Thailand at Siam Country Club on Thursday.

    Lee sank a 45-foot putt on the 18th hole to card a 6-under-par 66 to tie for the lead with 2016 champion Lexi Thompson, Jessica Korda, and local hope Moriya Jutanugarn.

    ''I just hit the collar. I didn't know if I was going to have enough. Such a big break there. I'm glad it caught the hole,'' Lee said.

    ''It's a second-shot golf course. Your approaches are really important, and obviously being in the right spots with the undulation. And if you have a hot putter that's going to help.''

    Full-field scores from the Honda LPGA Thailand

    Lee won the Vic Open near Melbourne this month and opened her 2018 LPGA tour account last week at the Women's Australian Open, finishing fifth.

    Thompson, who won this event in 2016 by six shots with a 20-under total and tied for fourth last year, started her latest round in style with an eagle followed by a birdie only to bogey the third hole. She carded four more birdies.

    ''It definitely helps to get that kind of start, but I was just trying to keep that momentum and not get ahead of myself,'' Thompson said.

    Her compatriot Korda had a roller-coaster round which featured eagles on the first and 17th holes, five birdies, a double bogey on the sixth, and two bogeys.

    Jutanugarn was the only player among the four to end the day without a bogey.

    ''I had a good start today, it was better than I expected,'' said Jutanugarn, who was seventh here last year.

    She's trying to become the first Thai winner of the tournament.

    Two-time champion Amy Yang and world No. 2 Sung Hyun Park were among six players at 5 under.