In the field as an alternate when Tim Clark withdrew Tuesday because of an elbow injury, Holmes beat Camilo Villegas, 4 and 2, on Wednesday at Dove Mountain.
Holmes got about 4 1/2 hours of sleep after going to bed at 1 a.m. following a flight delay out of Orlando, Fla., and missed connection in Dallas.
“I felt alright, actually,” Holmes said. “I woke up and didn’t feel too bad. I went out and knew it wasn’t going to be an all-day thing. I knew I could take a nap.”
He eagled the 573-yard, par-5 13th to take a 3-up lead, hitting a 372-yard drive.
“It was like, 356 to the bunker out there. I think I flew it,” Holmes said. “I hit it really good. I looked at my caddie and I said, ‘I killed that.”’
Holmes, playing the course for the first time, ended the match with a birdie on the par-3 16th, then played 17 and 18 by himself to get a look at the holes.
“I didn’t know if I could until I asked the rules official,” Holmes said.
He had an awkward moment on the par-4 ninth when he hit his approach before Ernie Els and Jeff Overton finished the hole.
Play was delayed for Overton to get a ruling, leading Holmes – facing a blind shot on the uphill hole – to believe the green had cleared. Overton had just chipped on and Els had a chip left when Holmes’ approach landed in the middle of the green, well short of where Els was standing.
“Nobody saw them,” Holmes said. “There was a flag in. Nobody, anywhere. I mean, Camilo, his caddie, my caddie didn’t see him. It looked like there was nobody up there for a long time. … So, whenever they get done, I want to apologize to them for sure.”
He’ll be able to do that Thursday when he faces Els, a 19-hole winner.
“I think this course suits J.B. Holmes to a tee,” Els said.
ON THE CLOCK: The opening match between Stewart Cink and 2010 winner Ian Poulter was excruciatingly slow – just over 4 hours for them to complete 18 holes, which is unusual for a twosome in match play.
Both made double bogey on the par-3 sixth, which didn’t help.
It was on the next hole that rules official Stephen Cox drove up in a cart and asked them to speed along. As tense as the atmosphere can be in match play, Cox delivered a great line when he approached Poulter.
“Look, I realize you’ve both taken a trip to In-N-Out for a double-double, but I’d appreciate it if you would pick up the pace,” Cox said as Poulter looked at him and grinned.
It didn’t help. By the next hole, Cox began timing them.
For the Match Play Championship, players are given two warnings for bad times. On the third bad time, it’s loss of a hole.
Neither was penalized in the match, which Cink won on the 19th hole.
AHEAD GAME: Jason Day did his best to get a leg up on K.T. Kim.
“I made the choice to walk in front of him all the time, to be in front of him, just to show him that I was there, show him that I’m still around, instead of walking behind him and him being in front,” said Day, a 3-and-2 winner.
“So, it was a little bit of a tactic to say, ‘I’m still here, I’m still going to fight and I’m going to try and win as good as I could.”’
The Australian showed his match savvy on the par-4 opening hole, switching to an iron and splitting the fairway after Kim hit a fairway metal into trouble.
“If someone hits it in the rubbish, you’ve just got to take the risk versus reward,” Day said. “If you want to go for it and hit driver, you can. But if you want to lay up and try to put some pressure on him, then that’s it.”
Day, seeded 38th, will face sixth-seeded Paul Casey on Thursday. Casey, the runner-up the last two years, beat Richard Green in 19 holes.
FRIENDLY RIVALS: Torrey Pines winner Bubba Watson beat good friend Bill Haas, 3 and 2, to set up a second-round match against Mark Wilson.
“The sad thing is I had breakfast with Bill Haas and his fiance. And then we had to go out and play each other,” Watson said. “It’s sad having to beat a friend. It’s different. You feel bad. But I played great and somehow came around with the victory.
“We were just talking about they are about to get married. How many people are in their wedding party and stuff like that. Just small talk. Then he gets up to go warm up. I’m like, ‘I’ll see you in a little bit.”’
Wilson, the Sony Open and Phoenix Open champion, beat Dustin Johnson in 19 holes.
DIVOTS: Steve Stricker, celebrating his 44th birthday, fell 2 and 1 to 17-year-old Matteo Manassero. … The first-round losers received $45,000. Second-round losers will get $95,000.