MARANA, Ariz. – The only other time J.B. Holmes played the Match Play Championship, Tiger Woods rallied to beat him. This time, Holmes beat himself.
In the field as an alternate when Tim Clark withdrew, Holmes blew a 5-up lead with eight holes to play in a 19-hole loss to Bubba Watson in the quarterfinals Saturday.
“It’s golf. It happens,” Holmes said. “It happens every year to somebody. It hurts a little bit, but I’ll get over it. … I didn’t finish it off. He played well and I gave him a couple, too. I didn’t hit the shots when I needed them.”
After birdieing No. 10 to take the 5-up lead, Holmes tried to play it safe on the par-5 11th, using a 3-wood instead of a driver.
But the long-hitting Holmes hit the 3-wood too well, blasting a 380-yard drive that ran through the fairway and stopped against a plant in a rocky desert wash.
He got too much club on his recovery shot, too, sending it across the fairway into a bunker. Two shots later, he still wasn’t on the green and conceded the hole to Watson, waiting patiently to play his third shot from just off the front of the green.
Watson then won Nos. 13-15 and drew even when Holmes drove left on 18 and hit his approach into the desert short and left of the elevated green.
On the 19th hole – the par-4 10th – Holmes hit a 370-yard drive that sailed right and into the desert. After taking a penalty drop, Holmes salvaged bogey, but Watson ended the match with a 3 1/2 -foot par putt.
“I wasn’t even in until Tuesday, so I’ll take it as a good week,” said Holmes, who beat Camilo Villegas, Ernie Els and Jason Day to reach the quarterfinals. “Obviously, I’m disappointed with the way it finished, but it happens.”
In 2008 in the first round against Woods, Holmes was 3-up with five to go, but Woods fought back and won five more matches to take the title.
Against Watson, Holmes took the lead on the par-5 second, following an astounding 415-yard drive with a wedge to 2 feet for a conceded eagle. The Kentucky player than won Nos. 4, 5, 7 and 10 to open the five-hole lead.
“He was playing great,” Watson said. “And I started making birdies and he missed some shots, missed some putts, left a couple doors open.”
Watson pointed to Holmes’ tee shot on 11 as the key.
“I was 5-down with eight to go. So you’re not looking too good,” Watson said. “And then I got lucky – he hit a 3-wood that went almost 400 yards into the desert. I won 11. Then, I birdied a couple of holes coming down and just caught him.”
Watson lost to PGA champion Martin Kaymer in the semifinals, falling 1-up.