In good faith, Holmes returns from brain surgery

By Doug FergusonJanuary 25, 2012, 3:01 am

SAN DIEGO – On a window sill in his closet is a chunk of bone that reminds J.B. Holmes why he’s lucky to play golf for a living.

It’s part of his skull that was removed during brain surgery in September.

Holmes laughed Tuesday when he talked about this peculiar memento, even though there were a few nervous moments that made him wonder if he would ever get back to the PGA Tour.

“I asked the guy if I could have it,” he said. “Because I grew it, so I figured I may as well keep it.”

In more somber moments, he is thankful to be back on Tour at the Farmers Insurance Open, his first tournament since he withdrew from the PGA Championship after opening with an 80. He had been dealing with vertigo symptoms since May, and eventually was diagnosed with structural defects in the cerebellum known as Chiari malformations.

The only time he truly felt nervous was slipping into a hospital gown before the Sept. 1 surgery. Even now, he only realizes how daunting it all was when he goes into details when answering questions.

He handled the news with the same ease he hits 330-yard tee shots.

“It’s scary at first,” he said. “Talking to the surgeon and stuff, he said for brain surgery, difficulty-wise for him it was only about a 1 out of 10. It’s still brain surgery, but that at least made me feel better. Then I got to the hospital and started putting on the gown and everything else and it was like, ‘Wow! I’m about to have brain surgery.’ So it really hits you then.

“But you’ve just got to put your faith in God and just hope everything comes out good.”

There was one nervous moment.

About a month after surgery, he started getting headaches and then began vomiting. Fluid had been building up around the scar, and doctors discovered later that Holmes was allergic to the adhesive used on the webbed titantium plate at the base of his skull. Leaving nothing to chance, he was airlifted from his home in Kentucky to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore for another surgery.

“They had me on so much painkillers I didn’t remember much,” he said. “I started out in Campbellsville and woke up in Baltimore. I remember vaguely getting on the plane and getting off.”

That delayed his return – he originally wanted to play in the Shark Shootout – though he is eager to get started. Holmes has lost track of the number of players who greeted him at Torrey Pines. Golfers miss time with injuries to knees, shoulders and elbows. Brain surgery, even though Holmes makes it sound like outpatient surgery, is not something they are used to hearing.

“It’s great to see any fellow golfer, anybody you work with, come back from an injury – any kind of injury,” Bubba Watson said. “But something like that … I mean, brain surgery is not easy. That’s something that’s serious. That could be career-ending. But him coming back, who knows how he’ll hit? Who cares if he misses the cut, makes the cut, if he wins. It’s just good to see him back out here.”

Holmes and Watson often are mentioned in the same sentence when it comes to the longest hitters in golf. Despite missing the last three months of the season, Holmes still led the PGA Tour in driving distance at 318.4 yards. Watson was second.

He doesn’t hit it with as much pop at the moment.

Holmes first pulled out a driver on Dec. 1 and hit it about 240 yards. The speed of his club was 106 mph, well below his typical swing speed of up to 125 mph. Now he’s up to about 115 mph as he works to regain full motion in his head rotation.

“I’m still hitting it over 300 yards,” he said. “It’s not what I’m used to, but it’s far enough to be able to get out here and play.”

His greatest strength came from faith, in the diagnosis and the doctors.

Holmes’ girlfriend, Erica Kalbhin, is a nurse. His mother was a nurse. They knew what he was facing. He chose not to know everything. He needed surgery. He scheduled it. And then came the recovery.

“If I really sat down and just think about it, yeah, it was extremely scary,” he said. “Luckily, I didn’t dwell on it. I didn’t study up on it and read everything about the surgery and see what could go wrong. I’ve got to go get surgery, let’s get it done. Do what I’ve got to do to get back out here. So it never really crossed my mind that I wasn’t coming back, or I wasn’t going to play again.”

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Highlights: Woods shoots Saturday 69 at API

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 17, 2018, 8:40 pm

Tiger Woods made six birdies Sunday, including one at the home hole, to shoot 3-under 69 and move to 7 under par for the week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

When he walked off the golf course, he was four off the 11-under pace set by Rickie Fowler, Henrik Stenson and Bryson DeChambeau, all of whom were still on the course.

"I'm going to have to shoot a low one tomorrow, and probably get a little bit of help," Woods told Golf Channel's Steve Sands in a post-round interview. "But my responsibility is to go out there and shoot a low one first."

Woods didn't bogey the first hole on Saturday like he did the day prior - but he did drop at a shot at the par-3 second when he failed to get up and down from the bunker.

Luckily, it wouldn't take him long to get that stroke back. One hole later, at the dogleg-left, par-4 third, Woods ripped a 2-iron off the tee, hit a less-than-stellar approach long and right, and poured in this 38-footer for birdie to get back to even par on the day.

He followed with another at the par-5 fourth, smoking a drive 313 yards uphill, short-siding himself with his second shot, and playing this deft pitch to set up a tap-in 4.

After a par save from the bunker at 5, Woods missed the fairway right at the par-5 sixth, laid up with his second, spun a wedge to 15 feet with his third, and rolled in this third birdie of the day to move to 6 under for the week.

Woods' momentum was slowed by a bogey at 8, the product of an errant tee shot, and a missed birdie try at 9 left Tiger to make the turn in 1 under-35, minus-5 for the week.

He quickly returned to 6 under for the championship when he hit an approach from 186 to inside 10 feet at the par-4 11th and walked in the putt:

Following four straight pars, Woods for the second day in a row made an unlikely birdie at the par-5 16th after missing the fairway to the right and declining to layup.

Woods would drop one more shot coming in when his ball fried in the front bunker at 17, leading to a bogey, but this closing birdie at 18, his sixth of the day, got him into the clubhouse 3 under for the round and 7 under for the week. It also elicited a rare straight-down fist pump.

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Two-time major champ Pettersen pregnant

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 7:14 pm

PHOENIX – Suzann Pettersen is pregnant with her first child.

Pettersen’s husband, Christian Ringvold, confirmed the news with Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz.

Pettersen, 36, who married Ringvold in January of 2017, is due in the fall. The 15-time LPGA winner and two-time major champion has yet to make her first start this year. She’s an eight-time Solheim Cup veteran.

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Tiger Tracker: Arnold Palmer Invitational

By Tiger TrackerMarch 17, 2018, 3:00 pm

It was a 3-under 69 on Saturday for Tiger Woods for a 7-under total through three rounds. We tracked him at Bay Hill.

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Fowler among 5 to skip WGC-Match Play

By Ryan LavnerMarch 17, 2018, 2:24 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Five of the top 64 players in the world will skip next week’s WGC-Dell Match Play.

Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Henrik Stenson, Brooks Koepka and Adam Scott all will miss the second WGC event of the year, held next week at Austin Country Club.

As a result, the last man into the field is world No. 69 Luke List. Kevin Na, Charles Howell III, Joost Luiten and Keegan Bradley also got into the field.

Julian Suri and Bill Haas are the first two alternates, if anyone else withdraws from the round-robin-style match-play event.

This is the second year in a row that Rose, Fowler, Stenson and Scott will not play in Austin. Koepka reached the quarterfinals each of the past two years, but he is still recovering from a wrist injury.

The final seeding for the event will be determined after this week’s tournaments. The bracket show is at 7:30 p.m. Monday, live on Golf Channel.