Holmes validates recent form with trophy in Houston

By Will GrayApril 6, 2015, 1:19 am

HUMBLE, Texas – J.B. Holmes has been knocking on the door for weeks.

First came San Diego. Then came Miami.

This time, Holmes broke the door down by bombing his way around the Golf Club of Houston, firing the low round of the day and emerging from a three-man playoff to win the Shell Houston Open.

The victory is the fourth of his career, his second in less than a year and puts a stamp on the long-hitter as one of the players to watch – both next week at the Masters and beyond.

While Holmes was unable to hold the lead last month at the WGC-Cadillac Championship, squandering a five-shot advantage over Dustin Johnson, his role was reversed in Houston. He began the day six shots behind Jordan Spieth, but was able to move to the top of the standings with an 8-under 64 that he began with five straight birdies.

“I mean, when you got it going, you keep doing what you’re doing. Don’t change anything,” Holmes said. “I thought it was going to take a low number to have a chance.”

On a day when cold rain and shifting winds made scoring difficult, the long-hitting Holmes tied a tournament record with a front-nine 29, at one point amassing a three-shot lead. After 72nd-hole putts from Spieth and Johnson Wagner forced overtime, Holmes was thrust into a familiar situation.

Two months earlier, he had lost a playoff to Jason Day at the Farmers Insurance Open, and six years ago he lost in extra time to Paul Casey at this same event. This time around, he came out on top.

ANA Inspiration: Articles, videos and photos

The key, he explained, was a commitment to “staying present.”

“Just focus one shot at a time,” Holmes said. “I know you say that, but really it’s that simple and that difficult.”

Holmes has been working with sports psychologist Jim Murphy for two years, and he credits their work on his mental game as the difference in his emergence this season, a campaign that now includes four top-10 finishes in his last six starts.

“Just mentally, I feel like I’ve been able to control it better, kind of let go a little bit and not get in my way as much,” he said. “Focus on the things I can control. I can go out every day and have fun. I can do my routines properly, and I can try to stay present the best I can. And those are my three goals every day.

“Whatever the score is, the score is. But if I do those three things, I consider it a successful day.”

Holmes checked off every box with his final-round effort, which was two shots clear of the rest of the field on a dreary afternoon. Longtime caddie Brandon Parsons saw that his boss was ready from the opening tee shot.

“I think that he was just comfortable,” Parsons said. “We weren’t really trying to do anything differently, we were just breathing well, staying present in the moment, and just continued that all day.”

Spieth, who began the day with a one-shot lead, quickly took notice of the round Holmes was compiling ahead of him.

“What a round of golf,” said Spieth, who was eliminated on the first extra hole. “That’s an incredible round of golf today given the conditions, the rain and mist and the course is playing longer, which doesn’t mean anything to him. I was aware.”

Holmes won when Wagner’s six-foot par putt lipped out on the second extra hole. He was quick to point out that while his 64 yielded the desired result, it wasn’t even his best round of the season – that would be his 10-under 62 last month at Trump National Doral.

Despite a number of close calls in recent weeks, most notably in Miami, Holmes has had no trouble focusing on the positives from those results while rocketing to a career-best position in the world rankings.

“Those are great weeks when I got runner-up,” he said. “Anytime you get a chance to win, I just looked at it as a great week, and I’ve got to keep getting up there and get in position to have a chance to win.”

Holmes admitted that he didn’t tee off today expecting to win, but once the opportunity arose he didn’t pass it up. Now he heads to the Masters for just the second time, and first time since 2008, with unbridled momentum.

“Just to be able to walk around that place is pretty amazing,” Holmes said. “I’m really excited to get there and play. My game is in good shape right now, and I’m looking forward to it.”

Holmes’ game has been in “good shape” for a while. The only difference now is that he has the trophy to prove it.

Getty Images

Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

Getty Images

Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

Getty Images

DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

Getty Images

LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.