Notes: Healthy Holmes ready to continue return

By Doug FergusonJanuary 29, 2014, 1:00 am

SAN DIEGO – J.B. Holmes made another return from surgery at San Diego, this time with far less fanfare.

Then again, tennis elbow doesn't sound nearly as bad as brain surgery.

What kept Holmes off the PGA Tour for the longest spell of his career was surgery on his left elbow. He had not played in nearly a year – a 78 to miss the cut in the Honda Classic last March – but is finally feeling as healthy as he has been in four years.

In a roundabout way, the elbow might have been connected to the brain.

Holmes had been dealing with vertigo symptoms in 2011 when he eventually was diagnosed with structural defects in the cerebellum known as Chiari malformations. He had surgery twice in 2011, once to remove a piece of his skull, another because of an allergic reaction to the adhesive on the titantium plate at the base of his skull.

He was trying to get ready for the Shark Shootout at the end of 2011 when he started hitting balls – too many, too hard, too soon.

''I pushed it too hard that day, and I've been fighting the tennis elbow ever since,'' Holmes said Sunday after he tied for 19th at Torrey Pines.

The blessing in disguise might have come last March when he was on roller blades as part of his fitness routine and broke his left ankle after an awkward fall. Holmes wasn't sure he could have played anyway, because his arm was so sore. While recovering from the ankle, he figured he should take care of his elbow.

''The ankle was not that big of a deal,'' Holmes said. ''I had surgery on my arm. It was more getting past that.''

At least this time, Holmes is taking it slow.

He was able to chip and putt as the FedEx Cup playoffs were getting started (he failed to qualify for the first time). He was taking easy swings in the fall, and then waited until the Farmers Insurance Open to return. He is playing this week in the Phoenix Open, where he won as a rookie fresh out of Q-school in 2006.

''I want to get out there and beat balls, but I want to make sure it doesn't come back,'' he said.

Holmes said he was at 95 percent strength. He is playing this year on a major medical exemption and believes he'll be back on track in no time. The last time he was healthy?

''Probably the year before brain surgery,'' he said.


CLOSE CALLS: The good news for Stacy Lewis is she has eight straight top 10s on the LPGA tour. She has not been out of the top 10 since the U.S. Women's Open last July (except for when she withdrew after one round in Canada, one week after winning the Women's British Open at St. Andrews).

But it's hard not to think how much better it could be.

Lewis was the runner-up for the fifth time in her last eight tournaments when Jessica Korda birdied the last hole to win the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic.

It started harmlessly enough at the Safeway Classic when she finished two shots behind Suzann Pettersen. In China, she lost on the final hole when Shanshan Feng's approach to the par 5 took a wild hop and slammed off the pin to set up an eagle for the win. Lexi Thompson birdied the last hole in Mexico to beat Lewis by one. And then Pornanong Phatlum birdied the 18th hole in Dubai to beat Lewis by one.

Lewis can only hope the result in the Bahamas is a sign of things to come for the rest of the year.

''It's very frustrating,'' she said. ''The 18th has gotten me the last couple tournaments. I've had so many chances to win. It's very frustrating, but to finish second a lot of weeks in a row, you're not doing anything really wrong. That's what I'm taking out of it is I'm doing a lot of stuff right. There's more events and there's bigger tournaments this summer, so I'm just going to take this momentum from here.''


GO WEST, YOUNG MAN: Scott Stallings loves being at home in Tennessee. He also loves to play good golf, and something had to give.

It's not usual for players from the cold parts of the country – Steve Stricker in Wisconsin, for example – to head to the desert for a few days to start shaking the rust off. Stallings went to Palm Springs a few days before his first appearance in the Tournament of Champions at Kapalua.

''We had a good time, but it was only for a couple days right before I went to Maui,'' he said.

Before going to Kapalua last year, he switched up his plans and headed to Scottsdale, Ariz., for four or five days. That's when the light came on.

''I spent some time with Kevin Streelman and he took me around Whisper Rock and showed me the ropes,'' Stallings said. ''I was like, 'Man, you can get really good here.'''

And so he did.

Stallings finished up his 2013 schedule in Mexico and met his wife, Jennifer, and their young son in Scottsdale. That was in November, and he's not leaving until March. He spent most of the last two months playing with Richard Lee and Josh Teater and is now in the process of joining Whisper Rock.

''It's nice to be with guys who do what you do and are trying to figure out what it takes to get better,'' Stallings said. ''In Tennessee, I love being home, I love where my family is. But it's not going to help me be a better golfer, so we made the commitment.''


USGA & FOX: For all the talk about Fox Sports being a newcomer to golf telecasts when it gets the U.S. Open starting next year, USGA executive director Mike Davis looked at it another way. In an interview with Sports Business Journal, he said the Fox crew could devote more time to the U.S. Open and other USGA events.

''What's neat about this is they can focus on our events,'' Davis said. ''It's not 30 weeks a year where they're doing golf and the U.S. Open sneaks up on them. They plan on taking their announcers to the site months in advance to learn the golf course, and I'll be there with them to take them through what we're trying to do. ... While there may be a new group, in some ways they'll be more knowledgeable than what we've seen in the past.''

That last comment might not go down easily with the NBC and ESPN crews, which feature the likes of two-time major champion Johnny Miller, two-time U.S. Open champions Curtis Strange and Andy North, and former U.S. Women's Open champion Dottie Pepper.

Fox Sports thus far has hired Mark Loomis as their executive producer. Loomis brings plenty of experience, having previously worked for ABC Sports at the British Open and other tournaments.


DIVOTS: Jim Herman never had a card like the one turned in Thursday in the Farmers Insurance Open. He shot a bogey-free 66 on the North Course at Torrey Pines. It also was a birdie-free 66. Herman made three eagles and 15 pars. ... Phil Mickelson has played in every Phoenix Open dating to 1991. ... Yani Tseng won the Taifong Ladies Open on the Taiwan LPGA tour last week for her first victory since March 2012 at the Kia Classic on the LPGA.


STAT OF THE WEEK: For the second straight year, American players have won at least the first 10 events of the PGA Tour season.


FINAL WORD: ''It's still putting the golf club on the golf ball. And the end of the day, that's still what you have to do.'' - Rickie Fowler describing his work with Butch Harmon.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.