Holmes muscles his way up the leaderboard

By Associated PressAugust 8, 2008, 4:00 pm
Follow the 90th PGA Championship all week on GOLF CHANNEL. Click for our TV schedule!
 
2008 US Open 81x90BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. ' J.B. Holmes always knew he could hit the golf ball a long way.
 
J.B. Holmes
J.B. Holmes waves to the crowd during Round 2. (Getty Images)
He made his high school team in Kentucky when he was in the third grade. He was hitting 300-yard tee shots at age 13, and when he went to the Masters in 1998 as a senior in high school to watch Tiger Woods for the first time, it wasnt the least bit overwhelming.
 
I realized the pros dont hit it any further than I do, Holmes said.
 
His monster length proved to be more than enough for Oakland Hills on Friday.
 
With a black glove on his hand and a scowl on his face, Holmes hammered one tee shot after another'one of them he estimated at about 400 yards'and kept most of them in the short grass, leading to a 2-under 68 for a one-shot lead in the PGA Championship.
 
Holmes was at 1-under 139, the only player to break par over two rounds on a course known as The Monster. It was the first time since 1972'at Oakland Hills, not so coincidentally'that only one player was under par through 36 holes of the PGA Championship.
 
When I hit my driver like I did today, this is an easy sport, Holmes said.
 
It sure didnt feel easy to anyone else.
 
Sergio Garcia four-putted the 17th green late in the second round just as he was trying to catch Holmes, and instead dropped to a 73 and was three shots behind. Phil Mickelson struggled with a few bad drives, a few poor chips and not many putts, making three bogeys over the final five holes for a 73 that left him four shots behind.
 
Colin Montgomerie found nothing easy about Oakland Hills. He had to play his best golf over the closing holes to avoid his worst score as a professional, salvaging an 84 to match his worst score ever in a major.
 
The final major is so hard that Garcia predicted no one would be under par when it was time to hoist the trophy.
 
I dont think its going to be won by 1 under par, Garcia said. I just need to make sure that I stay around where I am and maybe a little closer to par. Thats going to have a chance on Sunday.
 
Ben Curtis, who on Thursday said only one player would like Oakland Hills by the end of the week, got along just fine Friday with a 67, matching Justin Rose with the best score of the tournament and leaving both of them one shot behind at even-par 140.
 
Its the kind of round Ive been looking for to get myself back on the leaderboard and feeling the good vibes, Rose said.
 
They were joined by Charlie Wi, a 36-year-old who has played on just about every tour, but never in a major championship until this week. He made his debut with back-to-back 70s and will play in the final group Saturday with Holmes.
 
Former PGA champion David Toms (69) and Henrik Stenson of Sweden (70) were at 1-over 141. The group at 142 included Garcia, former U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera (72) and Sean OHair, who steadied himself after a double bogey on his opening hole and shot 73.
 
For the second straight day, only six players broke par.
 
When I got here on Tuesday, I called home and I said, This is the hardest golf course Ive ever played, Wi said. If I were to play here every day, I dont know if I would enjoy it. Its a very difficult golf course.
 
Wi might see a different course while playing with Holmes.
 
The 26-year-old from Kentucky put his Paul Bunyan length on display during a morning of blue skies. Its a wonder some of his tee shots didnt leave contrails.
 
He leads the field in driving distance at 338 yards, and that doesnt include a mammoth tee shot on the 501-yard 14th that left him only a wedge to the green, where he made a 25-foot putt for his third straight birdie.
 
Holmes reached the 529-yard second hole with a wedge for a two-putt birdie from 12 feet, and he got home in two on the 593-yard 12th with an 8-iron. A stiff breeze was at his back on that 217-yard shot.
 
He hit driver on all but four holes.
 
Im not that aggressive if Im not hitting my driver good, Holmes said. If Im hitting bad shots with it, you dont hit it as much. You hit it right where youve looked? Whale away.
 
If youre hitting where youre aiming it every time, youre hitting good.
 
There were some comparisons to another young player from the South who hit it a country mile and overwhelmed Crooked Stick in 1991 to win the PGA Championship. But thats about the only resemblance to John Daly.
 
Holmes is not the ninth alternate, rather a two-time winner on the PGA Tour who might have secured a spot on the Ryder Cup team to be held next month at Valhalla in Kentucky, a course he knows better than anyone on tour. He lives clean and plays hard. His swing is compact, the power generated by his lower body.
 
My senior year of high school, I went out and watched Tiger, Holmes said, referring to a trip to the 1998 Masters. A lot of the players, they said hit the ball really long. And they did. I was like, Thats not much farther than me, if at all.
 
But length isnt everything, especially on the wild greens of Oakland Hills. Holmes lost two shots off his lead on the closing holes, with a poor chip on the 15th and a three-putt from across the long green on the par-3 17th.
 
Curtis played his final 15 holes without a bogey and is the only major champion at par or better, even if some still think his victory at Royal St. Georges in 2003 at the British Open was a fluke. He has won twice more on tour since then.
 
I know I can win another one, he said. Its just a matter of taking care of the opportunities that Im given. Theres weeks where you can play your best and not win, and theres weeks where you can kind of stumble your way in and win.
 
The stumbling belonged to Mickelson and Garcia, although the Spaniard chalked it up to one bad hole'or four bad putts'and bristled when it was suggested that the back nine was a struggle.
 
No, it wasnt. It wasnt at all, said Garcia, considered the best player without a major. Unfortunately, things didnt happen for me on the back nine. Its very difficult and this is a major.
 
Mickelson is perplexed by the raking of grass toward the tee, which makes it stand firm and led to some poor chips. But he remained optimistic, and should be. Twenty players were separated by four shots going into the weekend.
 
Theres a lot of golf left out here, and the golf course is very difficult, he said. So I think that it wont be overly difficult if you play well to make up some ground.
 
The cut was at 148, the highest since the gnarly rough of Oak Hill in 2003. Among the victims were Vijay Singh, who was coming off his first World Golf Championship last week; and Woody Austin and Hunter Mahan, who were Nos. 9 and 10 in the U.S. Ryder Cup standings.
 
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - PGA Championship
  • Full Coverage - PGA Championship
  • Getty Images

    HOFer Stephenson: Robbie wants to play me in movie

    By Will GrayOctober 22, 2018, 4:20 pm

    Margot Robbie has already starred in one sports-related biopic, and if she gets her way a second opportunity might not be far behind.

    Robbie earned an Academy Award nomination for her work last year as former Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding in the movie, I Tonya. She also has a desire to assume the role of her fellow Aussie, Jan Stephenson, in a movie where she would trade in her skates for a set of golf clubs.

    That's at least according to Stephenson, who floated out the idea during an interview with Golf Australia's Inside the Ropes podcast shortly after being announced as part of the next class of World Golf Hall of Fame inductees.

    "We've talked about doing a movie. Margot Robbie wants to play me," Stephenson said.

    There certainly would be a resemblance between the two Australian blondes, as Robbie has become one of Hollywood's leading ladies while Stephenson was on the cutting edge of sex appeal during her playing career. In addition to several magazine covers, Stephenson also racked up 16 LPGA wins between 1976-87 including three majors.

    Robbie, 28, has also had starring roles in Suicide Squad and The Wolf of Wall Street.

    Getty Images

    Monday Scramble: Who's No. 1 ... in the long run?

    By Ryan LavnerOctober 22, 2018, 4:00 pm

    Brooks Koepka becomes golf’s new king, Sergio Garcia enjoys the Ryder Cup bump, Danielle Kang overcomes the demons, Michelle Wie goes under the knife and more in this week’s edition of Monday Scramble:

    Brooks Koepka added an exclamation point to his breakout year.

    His red-hot finish at the CJ Cup not only earned him a third title in 2018, but with the victory he leapfrogged Dustin Johnson to become the top-ranked player in the world for the first time.

    That top spot could become a revolving door over the next few months, with Johnson, Justin Thomas and Justin Rose all vying for No. 1, but it’s a fitting coda to Koepka’s stellar year that included two more majors and Player of the Year honors.

    For a player whose team searches long and hard for slights, there’s no questioning now his place in the game.


    1. DJ won three events this season, but he wasn’t able to create much separation between him and the rest of the world’s best players.

    Koepka’s rise to No. 1 made him the fourth player to reach the top spot this year, and the third in the past month.

    Who has the greatest potential to get to No. 1 and stay there? Johnson is the best bet in the short term, but he’s also 34. Koepka will be a threat in the majors as long as he stays healthy. So the belief here is that it’ll be Justin Thomas, who is 25, without weakness and, best of all, hungry for more success.  

    2. Koepka had an eventful final round at the CJ Cup. Staked to a four-shot lead in the final round, his advantage was trimmed to one after a sloppy start, then he poured it on late with an inward 29. He punctuated his historic victory with an eagle on the 72nd hole, smirking as it tumbled into the cup.

    It was his fifth career Tour title – but only his second non-major. Weird.

    3. How appropriate that golf’s most underappreciated talent – at least in his estimation – became world No. 1 in a limited-field event that finished at 2 a.m. on the East Coast. Somehow he’ll spin this into being overlooked, again.



    4. Sergio Garcia carried all of that Ryder Cup momentum into the Andalucia Valderrama Masters, where he earned the hat trick by capturing his third consecutive title there.

    While the rest of the world’s best gathered in Korea or rested for global golf’s finishing kick, Garcia won the weather-delayed event by four shots over Shane Lowry. Garcia’s foundation hosts the tournament, and he extended his crazy-good record there: In 14 career appearances at Valderrama, he has three wins, seven top-3s, nine top-5s and 13 top-10s.

    Garcia, who went 3-1 at the recent Ryder Cup, became the first player since Ernie Els (2004) to win the same European Tour event three years in a row.

    5. Gary Woodland probably doesn’t want 2018 to end.

    He was the runner-up at the CJ Cup, his second consecutive top-5 to start the season. He made 11(!) birdies in the final round and now is a combined 37 under par for the first two starts of the new season.

    6. This definitely wasn’t the Ryder Cup.

    Four shots back, and the closest pursuer to Koepka, Ian Poulter had a chance to put pressure on the leader in the final round. Instead, he was left in the dust, mustering only three birdies and getting waxed by seven shots (64-71) on the last day. Poulter tumbled all the way into a tie for 10th.



    7. It hasn’t been the easiest road for Danielle Kang since she won the 2017 Women’s PGA.

    The 26-year-old said she’s dealt with anxiety for months and has battled both putting and full-swing yips. Her problems were so deep that a week ago, she stood over the ball for four minutes and couldn’t pull the trigger.

    No wonder she said that she was “pretty stunned” to hold off a bevy of challengers to win her second career title at the Buick LPGA Shanghai.

    “I’m finally at a place where I’m peaceful and happy with my game, with my life,” she said.

    8. In the middle of the seven-way tie for second in China was Ariya Jutanugarn, who will return to No. 1 in the world for the second time this season.

    9. Also in that logjam was another former top-ranked player, Lydia Ko, who had tumbled all the way to 17th. Ko hasn’t been able to build off of her slump-busting victory earlier this summer, but she now has six consecutive top-16 finishes and at least seems more comfortable in her new position.

    “Sometimes you get too carried away about the awards and rankings,” she said. “It just becomes so much. I think it’s more important to keep putting myself there and … shooting in the 60s, and that way I think it builds the confidence and the rankings kind of sort itself out.”


    Here's how Tiger Woods explained his pitiful performance at the Ryder Cup: “I was tired because I hadn’t trained for it. I hadn’t trained this entire comeback to play this much golf.”

    Of course, he looked just fine a week earlier at East Lake, where he snapped a five-year winless drought with one of the most memorable weeks of his legendary career. His training wasn’t a topic of conversation there.

    It's reasonable to expect that the emotional victory took a lot of out of him, but if he was so gassed, why did he sit only one team session and go 36 on Saturday? By Sunday night, Woods looked like he was running on empty, so either he wasn't upfront with captain Jim Furyk about his energy levels, or Furyk ran him out there anyway.

    This week's award winners ...  


    Can’t Catch a Break: Michelle Wie. The star-crossed talent announced that she’ll miss the rest of the season to undergo surgery to repair a troublesome hand injury. Maybe one of these years she’ll be able to play a full schedule, without physical setbacks.  

    Grab the Mic: Paul Azinger. Taking Johnny Miller’s seat in the booth, Azinger will call all four days of action at every Golf Channel/NBC event, beginning at the WGC-Mexico Championship. He was the most logical (and best) choice to follow the inimitable Miller.

    Take That, Dawdler: Corey Pavin. It was Pavin – and not the notoriously slow Bernhard Langer – who earned the first slow-play penalty on the PGA Tour Champions in what seemed like ages. The one-shot penalty dropped him to 15th in the event.

    Long Time Coming: Jason Day. His tie for fifth at the CJ Cup was his best finish worldwide since … The Players? Really. Wow.



    The Tumble Continues: Jordan Spieth. In the latest world rankings, Spieth is officially out of the top 10 for the first time since November 2014. A reminder that he finished last year at No. 2.

    Clutch Performances: Andalucia Masters. Both Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and Richie Ramsay both moved inside the top 116 in the Race to Dubai standings, securing their European Tour cards for next season. Gonzo tied for fifth in the regular-season finale, while Ramsay was joint 11th.

    That’s Messed Up: CJ Cup purse. As colleague Will Gray noted, the purse for the 78-man event was $9.5 million – or $400K more than the first 15 events of the Web.com Tour schedule combined. The difference between the haves and have-nots has never been larger.

    Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Justin Thomas. The defending champion never could get started in Korea, closing with his low round of the week, a 4-under 68, just to salvage a tie for 36th. Sigh.  

    Getty Images

    Azinger: 'Can't see anybody beating Tiger' at his best

    By Will GrayOctober 22, 2018, 2:44 pm

    There's a new world No. 1, and a fresh crop of young guns eager to make their mark on the PGA Tour in 2019. But according to Paul Azinger, the player with the highest ceiling is still the same as it was when he was walking inside the ropes.

    Azinger was named Monday as lead golf analyst for NBC Sports, and on "Morning Drive" he was asked which player is the best when all are playing their best. The former PGA champion pondered new world No. 1 Brooks Koepka and former No. 1 Dustin Johnson, but he came back around to a familiar answer: Tiger Woods.

    "I just can't see anybody beating Tiger when Tiger's at his best. I just can't see it," Azinger said. "He's not his best yet, but he's almost his best. And when Tiger's his best, there's more that comes with Tiger than just the score he shoots. That crowd comes with Tiger, and it's a whole 'nother dynamic when Tiger's at his best. And I'm just going to have to say that when Tiger's at his best, he's still the best."

    Woods, 42, started this year ranked No. 656 in the world but had a resurgent season that included a pair of near-misses at The Open and PGA Championship and culminated with his win at the Tour Championship that ended a five-year victory drought. For Azinger, the question now becomes how he can follow up a breakthrough campaign as he looks to contend consistently against players from a younger generation.

    "That's why we watch, to see if he can maintain that. To see what he's capable of," Azinger said. "Now longevity becomes the issue for Tiger Woods. In seven or eight years, he's going to be 50 years old. That goes fast. I'm telling you, that goes really fast."

    When Woods returns to action, he'll do so with a focus on the upcoming Masters as he looks to capture the 15th major title that has eluded him for more than a decade. With bombers like Koepka and Johnson currently reigning on the PGA Tour, Azinger believes the key for Woods will be remaining accurate while relying on the world-class iron play that has been a strength throughout his career.

    "I think he's going to have to recognize that he's not the beast out there when it comes to smacking that ball off the tee. But I'd like to see him try to hit a couple more fairways periodically. That'd be nice," he said. "If he can drive that ball in the fairway, with that putter, we've seen what his putter is capable of. The sky's the limit, boys."

    Getty Images

    Spieth drops out of top 10 for first time since 2014

    By Will GrayOctober 22, 2018, 2:08 pm

    As Brooks Koepka ascended to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking, a former No. 1 continued a notable decline.

    Jordan Spieth didn't play last week's CJ Cup, where Koepka won by four shots. But Jason Day did, and his T-5 finish in South Korea moved him up two spots from No. 12 to No. 10 in the latest rankings. Spieth dropped from 10th to 11th, marking the first time that he has been outside the top 10 in the world rankings since November 2014.

    Since that time, he has won 12 times around the world, including three majors, while spending 26 weeks as world No. 1. But he hasn't won a tournament since The Open last July, and this year he missed the Tour Championship for the first time in his career. Spieth is expected to make his season debut next week in Las Vegas at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.


    Updated Official World Golf Ranking


    Koepka and Day were the only movers among the top 10 on a week that saw many top players remain in place. Sergio Garcia's rain-delayed win at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters moved him up four spots to No. 27, while Gary Woodland went from 38th to 30th after finishing second behind Koepka on Jeju Island.

    Koepka will tee off as world No. 1 for the first time this week at the WGC-HSBC Champions, where new No. 2 Dustin Johnson will look to regain the top spot. Justin Rose is now third in the world, with Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Francesco Molinari, Bryson DeChambeau, Jon Rahm, Rickie Fowler and Day rounding out the top 10.

    With his next competitive start unknown, Tiger Woods remained 13th in the world for the fifth straight week.