Holmes a Rookie Who is Feeling Like a Veteran

By Associated PressMarch 21, 2006, 5:00 pm
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- The Players Championship is the kind of week that makes J.B. Holmes realize how quickly his life has changed.
 
A year ago, he was a senior at Kentucky watching on television as Fred Funk saved par from the bunker on the last hole to win the richest prize on the PGA Tour. Holmes knows a little about the TPC at Sawgrass. He has played it on a video game, and he played nine holes last year after a college match across the street at Sawgrass Country Club.
 
J.B. Holmes
J.B. Holmes is playing in his first PLAYERS Championship.
But the circumstances were entirely different Tuesday.
 
He is the only rookie in the 144-man field that tees off Thursday, and they don't offer invitations. The Players Championship, known in these parts as the fifth major, is for players who finished in the top 125 on the money list last year, who won majors in the last five years or who are PGA Tour winners.
 
That's where Holmes comes in.
 
The first player in 22 years to win medalist honors at Q-school straight out of college, Holmes needed only four starts to capture his first PGA Tour title, overpowering the TPC of Scottsdale to win the FBR Open by seven shots. He is 11th on the PGA Tour money list, and a good week at Sawgrass could earn him a ticket to the Masters.

'Last year I was in college,' he said. 'It's all been a big change really fast for me, and I'm still trying to adjust.'
 
The first step is figuring out the Stadium Course.
 
Since moving to this Pete Dye creation in 1982, The Players Championship has had a variety of winners -- the power of Tiger Woods, Davis Love III, David Duval, Greg Norman and Adam Scott; the solid iron play of Nick Price, Hal Sutton and Steve Elkington; control players such as Funk and Justin Leonard.
 
The par 72 is only 7,093 yards, relatively short by today's standards. Stranger still is that in an era where tees often are pushed back to cope with the big bashers, this one hasn't changed in eight years.
 
It is a complete test because of the angles required off the tee, precision into the greens that are severely contoured and the pressure of the final three holes, none greater than the island green for the par-3 17th.
 
'I do think the course doesn't favor any one style of play,' Phil Mickelson said. 'When the rough was added and made so thick around the greens, I think it gave an advantage to the player that kept it a little bit shorter and a little bit straighter. But because the greens are small and tough to hit, there's an advantage to a guy who can hit a little bit longer. Whoever is playing well is the guy that has the advantage.'
 
Holmes falls under the power category.
 
He overwhelmed the field in Phoenix, hitting his final tee shot over a lake meant to guard the left side of the fairway. But the 23-year-old rookie knows there is more to golf than distance.
 
'Everyone thinks we can just hit it a mile,' Holmes said, referring to himself, Camilo Villegas and Bubba Watson. 'You've got to putt out here. You can hit it a long ways, but being able to putt is the biggest advantage. You've got to have a short game, you can't just hit it long.'
 
Make no mistake, though. Holmes can hit it long.
 
And he has been doing that a long time.
 
Holmes fell in love with golf by sitting on the sofa with his father, watching on television. He was so good at such a young age, that he made the high school team in Campbellsville, Ky., when he was in the third grade.
 
'My dad just called the coach, and there wasn't a whole lot of people playing golf then,' Holmes said. 'He said, 'What do you need to shoot to play on the team?' He (the coach) said, 'He needs to shoot 50 on nine holes.''
 
Holmes could do that. In fact, he was among the top two players on the team before he finished the sixth grade, and once he got through the teasing for being so young, he blossomed into a star at Kentucky. Holmes helped the United States win back the Walker Cup last summer in Chicago.
 
'I always swung hard when I was younger,' he said. 'Swung as hard as I could. Did it all the way until I was probably 15 or 16, and realized I didn't have to swing as hard as I could every time. It's easier to gear it back than it is to gear it up.'
 
The next lesson is adjusting to life on the road.
 
Among the changes for Holmes are traveling alone. His father flew from Kentucky for the final round in Phoenix to watch him win, but Holmes is too young and hasn't been on tour very long -- remember, he was studying for exams this time a year ago -- to meet enough people to have dinner.
 
He flies to the next city, to the next hotel.
 
'We're on the East Coast, and I know more people that might come out,' he said. 'This is the stuff I didn't know about. It's like I skipped my rookie year. It's early in the year, and I feel like I've been out here a while.'
 
Being the only rookie at The Players Championship might make him feel even older.
 
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    Goal for new world No. 1 Koepka: Stay healthy

    By Will GrayOctober 21, 2018, 1:38 pm

    Last season Brooks Koepka bagged a pair of majors en route to the PGA Tour's Player of the Year award. He started the new wraparound season with an emphatic win at the CJ Cup to reach world No. 1 for the first time.

    But amid the best form of his career, Koepka has a simple goal in mind as he gets ready to turn his attention to the new year.

    "Stay healthy," Koepka told reporters. "That's been the big thing. I need to be healthy to be able to play all these events, play all the majors."

    Koepka's breakthrough year comes despite the fact that he missed four months in the spring, including the Masters, while recovering from a wrist injury. He hit the ground running once he returned, with strong finishes at TPC Sawgrass and Colonial preceding wins at the U.S. Open and PGA Championship.

    Now Koepka has added a third trophy after cruising to a four-shot win in South Korea on Sunday that allowed him to move past Dustin Johnson at world No. 1.

    "I'm 1-for-1 this year, which is nice," Koepka joked about his undefeated record in the new wraparound season.

    Koepka will be in the field next week in China for the WGC-HSBC Champions before putting the clubs on the shelf. With Justin Thomas paving the way by making the goal-setting process more public in recent years, Koepka explained that even after summiting the world rankings he plans to wait until 2019 to adjust his expectations for himself.

    "I keep the same goals through the calendar year," Koepka said. "On Jan. 1 I go to the beach in the morning and go write down my goals and figure them out for the calendar year, but I just need to finish this year off. I've got next week and I would like to, coming out the first week as No. 1, I'd like to play well."

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    Birdie binge for Woodland comes up short at CJ Cup

    By Will GrayOctober 21, 2018, 12:52 pm

    Gary Woodland mounted an impressive rally at the CJ Cup, but in the end even 11 birdies weren't enough to catch Brooks Koepka.

    Woodland started the final round in South Korea five shots behind the new world No. 1, but he made the biggest move of the day amid chilly conditions on Jeju Island. With six birdies over his first nine holes, including four in a row on Nos. 6-9, he briefly caught Koepka at the top of the leaderboard.

    But Woodland bogeyed No. 10, and even with five more birdies coming home to finish a 9-under 63 he still finished alone in second, four shots behind Koepka who closed with a bogey-free 29 to put the trophy out of reach.

    "Yesterday I didn't get any putts to go in, and today I saw a lot of putts go in," Woodland told reporters. "Brooks with the lead, not much fazes him. So you knew you had to make a lot of birdies, and I made a lot today. But I was just too far behind."

    It's the second straight strong performance from Woodland to start the new wraparound season, as he tied for fifth at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia after holding a share of the 54-hole lead. A closing 63 would have gone a long way last week, but he was still pleased to be able to make Koepka sweat a little on a day when even the bad holes resulted from good shots.

    "I made two bogeys on the back and I said, 'Be right' on both shots," Woodland said. "I was just maybe a little too amped up, a little excited. I hit them both perfect. All in all, I would have liked for a couple more putts to go in yesterday and been a little closer going into today."

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    Kang (69) wins Buick LPGA Shanghai by two

    By Associated PressOctober 21, 2018, 9:11 am

    SHANGHAI - Danielle Kang shot a 3-under 69 on Sunday to win the LPGA Shanghai by two strokes for her second career title.

    Kang, who started the final round one stroke off the lead, offset a lone bogey on the par-5 fourth hole with four birdies after the turn to finish at 13-under 275 and hold off a late charge by Lydia Ko, who had the day's lowest score of 66.

    ''I hope I win more,'' Kang said. ''I did the best I can. I'm going to keep working hard and keep giving myself chances and keep putting myself in contention. I'll win more. I'll play better.''

    Ko, who had seven birdies and a lone bogey, tied for second at 11 under with a group of seven players that included Brittany Altomare (71), Ariya Jutanugarn (71) and overnight co-leader Sei Young Kim (72).


    Buick LPGA Shanghai: Articles, photos and videos


    Carlota Ciganda, who also held a share of the lead after the third round, shot a 73 to fall into a tie for ninth with Bronte Law and local favorite Lu Liu.

    Paula Creamer carded three birdies against a pair of bogeys for a 71 to finish in sole possession of 12th place.

    The tournament is the second of five being played in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan in the LPGA's annual Asian swing.

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    New world No. 1 Koepka already wants more

    By Nick MentaOctober 21, 2018, 8:48 am

    If there is a knock on Brooks Koepka, it’s that he’s a little too cool.

    Gary Woodland, who threw 11 birdies at Koepka on Sunday and still finished four shots back, inadvertently captured that exact sentiment after Saturday's third round.

    “You know," he said, "Brooks doesn't seem like he cares too much."

    In context, Woodland meant that there was little anyone in the field could do to rattle the 54-hole leader. (He proved himself right, by the way.)

    And out of context, the comment speaks to the general narrative surrounding Koepka. That he’s just detached enough for fans to have trouble attaching themselves to him. That he’s just a jock here to cash checks and collect trophies, to kick ass and chew bubblegum.

    But for a few moments Sunday in South Korea, it became clear that Brooks Koepka does care. Crouched on the 72nd green with some time to stop and think as Ian Poulter lagged a bit behind, Koepka finally let a moment get to him. Cameras caught the three-time major champion appearing unusually emotional.

    Of course, less than a minute later, those same cameras caught him yawning. The contrast was almost too perfect. It was as if he knew he had just been found out and needed to snap back into character – which he did.

    He promptly poured in an eagle putt to cap off a final-round 64, to win the CJ Cup by four, and to ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time in his career.


    Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

    CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos


    “To be world No. 1 is something I dreamed of as a kid,” Koepka said on the 18th green, moments after closing out his fifth PGA Tour victory and third this year. “I don't think this one's going to sink in.”

    What is beginning to sink in is that Koepka now unequivocally belongs in the conversation, the one golf fans and analysts have been having over and over since Tiger Woods fell from golf's greatest heights.

    Who’s the best at their best?

    In the two years between his first PGA Tour win and his first U.S. Open victory, Koepka was touted as having the kind of talent to compete with the game's elites. It took a little while for him to get here, but Koepka has taken over as the latest player to look like he’ll never lose again. Just as it was for Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas before him, this is Koepka's moment. This is his run of dominance.

    It’s a run that will have to end at some point. Every one of the guys just mentioned did cool off eventually. Koepka will, too. Maybe it will be fatigue, maybe it will be injury, and maybe it’ll just be golf. This talent pool is simply too deep for anyone to remain on top for too long.

    But what Koepka has done this year – in defending his U.S. Open title, in staring down Tiger at the PGA, in claiming the Player of the Year Award, in ascending to the top of the world rankings – is put his name at the forefront of the conversation. If he was unappreciated at times before, those days are behind him. He's already accomplished too much, proven himself too good to be overlooked any longer.

    And he’s far from done.

    “For me, I just need to keep winning,” the new world No. 1 said Sunday. “I feel like to win a few more regular Tour events and then keep adding majors. I feel like my game's set up for that. I've gotten so much confidence off winning those majors where, it's incredible, every time I tee it up, I feel like I really have a good chance to win whether I have my A-game or not. It's something I'm so excited [about] right now, you have no idea. I just can't wait to go play again.”