Holmes, the medalist at last year's PGA Tour Q-school, became the first rookie to win on the PGA Tour since Sean O'Hair captured the John Deere Classic seven months ago. Holmes also became the first player to make the FBR Open his first PGA Tour victory since Jerry Pate in 1977, and is the ninth golfer in tournament history to earn his maiden tour victory here.
'Everything has happened so fast, it probably hasn't sunk in yet,' said Holmes, who pocketed $936,000 for the win. 'It's hard to put into words. I'm so excited right now.'
Ryan Palmer held the lead on the front nine Sunday, but a disastrous triple bogey at the 15th derailed his chance. On the same hole, Holmes made eagle to put the tournament out of reach.
Palmer managed a 1-over 72 on Sunday and shared second place with Steve Lowery (67), fellow tour rookie Camilo Villegas (69), Scott Verplank (68) and J.J. Henry (72). The group came in at minus-14.
Despite the huge margin of victory, nothing was certain for Holmes until the back nine.
Holmes did nothing extraordinary on the front nine as he collected nine pars. Palmer moved ahead of Holmes with a birdie at one and a tap-in birdie at four, but Palmer traded three birdies and two bogeys over a five-hole span from the fourth. It was still enough to give Palmer, the 2004 winner at Disney, a one-shot lead as the two headed to the second nine.
It was on the back nine where Holmes took over. He popped up a terrible drive at the 10th that landed in the left rough. No matter; as Holmes knocked his approach to 11 feet and canned the birdie putt.
Palmer displayed an ugly shot on 11 that would be his downfall Sunday. He pulled his drive into the water on the left and could do no better than bogey. He fell one behind Holmes, and that was the closest he would get to the lead.
Both players birdied the par-5 13th, but it was 15 that sealed the tournament for Holmes. He hit another long drive down the fairway, but Palmer, still only one back, hit an awful drive that got wet. Holmes hit a 4-iron from 258 yards to 15 feet to really apply the pressure to Palmer.
Palmer was not up to the challenge. He took a penalty drop, then hit a low bullet into the pond on the left. After another drop, Palmer hit his fifth to 28 feet. Clearly frustrated, Palmer rammed his bogey putt 10 feet by the hole. He missed the putt coming back, so it was a triple-bogey eight.
Holmes, who uses a claw-type grip on the putter, drained the eagle putt to reach 20 under par. The 23-year-old completed a five-shot swing and was six ahead of his nearest competitors.
At the wild par-3 16th, Holmes hit a pitching-wedge 45 feet short of the stick. He two-putted for par, then, with a six-shot lead, had some fun with the gallery at the 332-yard, par-four 17th. Holmes kidded he would lay up with a 7-iron, but instead reached the putting surface with a 3-wood. He two-putted from 30 feet for birdie and carried a seven-shot lead to the 72nd hole.
In between the 17th green and 18th tee, Holmes walked along the gallery rope and slapped hands with any patron that put their hand out. He hugged his father, who, unbeknownst to his son, flew in Saturday night, then smoked a drive 354 yards down the fairway. Holmes missed a 16-foot birdie putt but the trip to the winner's circle was already cemented, barring a nine-putt from inside 20 feet.
'I got to enjoy the walk coming down 18 with the lead,' said Holmes. 'Everything aligned right today.'
Phil Mickelson, a two-time winner, including the 2005 staging, birdied his final four holes and five of his last six to shoot a 5-under 66. He tied for seventh place with Jonathan Byrd (68) and Justin Leonard (71) at 13-under-par 271.
Arron Oberholser (67) and Dean Wilson (71) shared 10th place at minus-12.