J.B. Holmes converted his two-putt from 43 feet on the final hole Sunday to avoid a playoff and wins for the third time in his career at the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte. The Kentuckian fired a final round 71 to post 14-under par 274 to defeat Jim Furyk by one shot. American Martin Flores, also playing in the final group on Sunday, rounded out the podium one further shot behind.
Holmes began the day in the final group with a one-shot lead over Martin Flores and two shots in front of Phil Mickelson. Holmes rolled back the clock as he held his nerve on Sunday as he did in his other two TOUR victories at the WMPO in 2006 and 2008. His 71 on Sunday was his 10th consecutive round under par on TOUR so today was hardly a fluke. Holmes had a three-shot lead entering the Green Mile closing stretch and he would need all of them to claim the title. On No. 16, he couldn’t get up and down from the rough behind the green but he did on No. 17 to save par from 76 feet. His three-footer on No. 18 saw him add his second bogey in three holes but it was just enough to hang to win.
The key this week for Holmes was that putter. For the tournament he racked up 37, one-putt greens and was 48-from-48 inside of three feet. I had an email this week from long-time reader Justin asking me about putting numbers and trends. We both laughed because we can’t unlock that secret and Holmes proves this point with his numbers this week. Entering the WFC, Holmes was 89th in both strokes gained-putting and total putting. For the week, he was fifth in both SGP and putts per GIR. And these were brand-new Bermudagrass greens. Go figure that out. Holmes hot putter saw him lead the field in birdies, 23, and that made up for his wildness of the tee (59th fairways) and struggles hitting greens (T29).
Holmes has come a very long way to get back to playing the quality of golf that we got a taste of in the latter half of the first decade of the 2000s. After wins at WMPO and a successful Ryder Cup, Holmes was right in the middle of the conversation of “next best young American golfer” before health troubles started to set in. In 2011, Holmes had not one but two brain surgeries to try and correct an issue that gave him vertigo-like symptoms. The first procedure removed a piece of his skull. The second surgery was due to an allergic reaction from the titanium plate they inserted after the first surgery. Gaahhhhhhhhhh! Forget about golf, how about just living a normal life! His life returned to normal, thankfully, and his golf started heading in the right direction as he made 20 of 25 cuts in 2012 and hit the top 10 twice. Poised to “break out” and return to his form of his early days, he broke his ankle while rollerblading. Oh, and he had an elbow problem. Add an elbow surgery while we’re at it and 2013 was washed out after March.
Holmes returned happy and healthy in 2014 and the results are showing a return to the days when he, not Bubba Watson, were the talk of the long drivers. Sure, Bubba Watson was still long back then but he hadn’t been to the Ryder Cup or the winner’s circle yet. This season Holmes has seen the weekend in 11 of 12 events. In his last five events entering this week he had finishes of T10, T64, T12, T18 and T11 last week in New Orleans. That performance last week saw him meets the terms of his Major Medical Extension and his victory this week qualified him for THE PLAYERS next week. Heck, he only needed T62 this week to qualify for THE PLAYERS but he’ll gladly take the win! Gamers who hopped on three weeks ago when he was starting to percolate have been rewarded. Moving forward, he’ll definitely be on my radar next week at Ponte Vedra Beach and any other courses where bombing and gouging could be advantageous.
With his victory, Holmes collects $1,224,000, 500 FedExCup Points and a two-year exemption on TOUR. He also will play in this year’s PGA Championship plus the 2015 HTOC and Masters.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won 20 of 25 events of 2013-14. Harris English, Jimmy Walker (THREE), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed (TWO), Scott Stallings, Kevin Stadler, Bubba Watson (TWO), Russell Henley, Chesson Hadley, Matt Every, Matt Kuchar and J.B. Holmes have added trophies for the USA. Matt Jones, Steven Bowditch, John Senden and Jason Day, all Australians, have cashed four victories and now we add South Korean S.Y. Noh to the party. Another week leads to another no-show in the winner’s circle from the European contingent. Completely weird.
S.Y. Noh, Steven Bowditch, Matt Every, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Stadler, Chesson Hadley and Matt Jones are the first-time winners this season. There were 12, first-timers in 40 events last year and we’ve had seven in 25 events so far in 2014.
Only 17 of the 38, 54-hole leaders went on to win last year in full-field, stroke play events. I’m always trying to figure out if this is a trend or not. In 2013-14, 13 of 24 leaders have gone on to win on Sunday as Holmes converted.
Holmes also bucked the trend at Quail Hollow as he becomes only the fourth, 54-hole leader to cash and second player in as many years to do so.
This was the first year in four that the WFC did NOT have a playoff. #threefooterFTW
Derek Ernst (T30) becomes the first defending champion in the last five to play on Sunday. There has been zero repeat or multiple champions in 12 events at the WFC.
Charlotte resident Brendon de Jonge tied the event’s single-round record with his 62 on Friday. He went on to fire 68-69 on the weekend and finished T6. #whatif
Jimmy Walker, Patrick Reed and Bubba Watson remain the only players on TOUR with multiple wins this season.
Young Guns Versus Prime Time Versus Old Guys
Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and has since added two more wins to lead the FedExCup standings. He has been joined by Ryan Moore (30) in Malaysia, Zach Johnson (37) at Kapalua, Kevin Stadler (33), at WMPO and Bubba Watson (35), joined them at Riviera. Matt Every (30), Steven Bowditch (30) and Matt Jones (33), all first-timers, flew the flag before Watson picked up victory No. 2 of the year at Augusta. Matt Kuchar’s win at RBC was the last before Holmes, 32, added to the kitty.
Scott Stallings (28), Patrick Reed TWICE (23), Chris Kirk (28), Webb Simpson (28), Dustin Johnson (29), Harris English (24), Jason Day (26) and Russell Henley (24) and Seung-Yul Noh, 22, are the twenty-somethings on the board.
Australian John Senden, 42, won at Tampa Bay for the only W for the “Old Guys” this season. Jim Furyk needed that final three-footer to miss to have a chance to add his name to this list.