A couple of bombs off the 18th tee allowed J.B. Holmes to overhaul the hometown favorite, Phil Mickelson
PAUL AZINGER began FBR Open week by promising to set up Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, site of the Sept. 19--21 Ryder Cup, with the long hitter in mind (MY SHOT, page G14). Conventional wisdom held that the U.S. captain was referring to Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, but maybe Azinger had J.B. Holmes in mind.
After blowing a four-shot lead midway through the final round, Holmes twice shrank the 438-yard 18th hole at TPC Scottsdale with titanic drives on the way to a playoff victory over Mickelson. On the 72nd hole Holmes hit a 350-yard blast into the left rough and made birdie from 13 feet to tie Mickelson. On the first playoff hole Holmes walloped a 359-yarder into the middle of the fairway (BIG PLAY, page G12) to set up his winning birdie from eight feet. The victory was Holmes's second at the FBR (he also won in 2006) as well as the second of his three-year Tour career.
When asked who had the upper hand in sudden death, Holmes, 25, didn't flinch. "When a guy is hitting three-wood and I'm hitting driver, and I'm 80 yards past him," he said, "how can you not feel you have the advantage?"
If Holmes doesn't make the Ryder Cup team on points, Azinger could do worse than make him one of his four captain's picks. Holmes grew up in Campbellsville, Ky., and logged several rounds at Valhalla while playing college golf at Kentucky. "It's probably one of my favorite courses," says Holmes. Before he dreams of Valhalla in autumn, though, Holmes can now look forward to Augusta in spring. A big tee ball doesn't hurt there, either.