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.

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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.

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Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.

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It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

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The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

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''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

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The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.