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
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.
What I learned from the finishers in the top 10
Jim Furyk: In 10 events at Quail Hollow, Furyk has a win, a second, a T2, a seventh, a T7 and T11. He performed exactly like I expected him to as he was No. 2 in my order of importance this week. His steady game tee-to-green saw him only concede four bogeys on the week en route to solo second. His 52 pars had plenty to do with that. It didn’t hurt that he was second in fairways, T10 GIR and ninth in SGP either! In his last five events he has nothing outside of T20 and in his four he has three T7s or better. He simply ran out of holes this week as evidenced by his closing round 65. #mayjahfiyah
Martin Flores: Another player who has been knocking on the fantasy door this winter/spring kicked in his highest finish as a pro with his solo third this week. Since the TOUR moved east after the NTO, Flores has flourished with six weekends in seven starts. He’s only had one finish outside T19 of those six so gamers should have had him on the radar. He was no course horse this week either and that speaks to where is game is GOING, not where it has been. When asked if he could handle the Sunday pressure he responded that he can because he believes in himself that much. Playing in the final group today was a fantastic learning experience and he’ll be better for it in the long run. #allaboard
Jason Bohn: After a T2-MC-T3 stretch last fall, Bohn knew that he would have a happy holiday and minimal pressure once the clock rolled over to 2014. He sure hasn’t played like it! In his eight previous events this season, the original #Bohner MC four times and his best finish was T33. Heck, he didn’t even play at the Zurich where he won in 2010 so if any gamers had him on the radar this week, God bless. In his last five at Quail Hollow, he MC four times and had a T33. He now has a solo third and a solo fourth in 11 career peggings at the WFC. He was T2 in birdies for the week because his putter was white hot but it was his double-bogey close on the final two holes knocked him off the podium.
Justin Rose: Another week in the lineup, another finish in the top 10 but gamers will point out that his double on the final hole took him out of bonus bucks in the Yahoo! game. They will also point out that it cost almost $200K in OAD money. I still think that all top 10s are great but I can see their point when a guy keeps getting close. Rose’s record at THE PLAYERS is AWFUL so we’ll see if the form > course history pans out next week. I’m still in the corner that some courses just don’t fit certain players’ eyes but Rose crushed that thought at Quail Hollow this week. This was his first trip inside the top 28 in six tries. That’s unbelievable for a player of his magnitude.
Brendon de Jonge: The Charlotte resident has been a massive disappointment for season-long gamers in 2013-14 as Automatic Teller Machine had exactly ONE top 25 (T18) in 12 events in calendar 2014 before this week. After opening with 80, I could hear the swearing all the way in southern Indiana as this was going to be another thrown away week for the Mustard Man. After opening with 66-64 at Honda, BDJ played 22 more rounds before finding the 60s. It was 62 on Friday. Course record. Unlike the Honda where he went 76-78 on the weekend de Jonge kept the momentum going with 68-69 to finish T6. It’s his first top 10 since T9 at the DBC last September. Season-long gamers are hoping he’s thawed and that the top 25s are back to stay. I’ll remain cool on him because he’s seen this course quite a few times. He’s now played the weekend in six straight and this is his second top 10 in that stretch. #horseforcourse
Kevin Kisner: ANOTHER Georgia Bulldog in the top 10 this year, Kisner began the day T4 and held on for T6 to post his best finish on TOUR in 64 career events. His other top 10 was T10 at the 2012 RBC. He’s won twice on the Web.com Tour including last year’s Chile Classic. After back-to-back MC at Valspar and Valero (he hates V’s obviously), he’s rattled off 68th, T38, T34 and T6 this week in his last four. His 73 on Sunday kept him from big bucks but the SGP leader this week now moves up to No. 110 in the FedExCup race. #exhale
Rory Sabbatini: The Golf Gods have been smiling on Sabbo ever since he gutted it out with a pinched nerve in his neck in March. He fought through the round at API without WD and since that break in his schedule has been playing excellent golf. He returned to the RBC with T9 and followed that with T17 last week at Zurich. This week, he opened with 74 but made only six bogeys the rest of the week to finish T8. He was fourth in birdies and his 67 on Sunday saw him climb 30 spots into the top 10.
Roberto Castro: Another up-and-comer that season-long owners were hoping to catch in a break-out type of year, Castro finally found form with T8 this week. After a T25 at Humana, he gained momentum with back-to-back T19s in Phoenix and Pebble Beach. And then somebody pulled the emergency brake. In his next seven he MC five times and posted finishes of T58 and 76th. This will be a welcome sight for those with patience or stubbornness who have ridden this bumpy ride. Castro went through a similar arc last spring as well so it may be time to put him back on the radar.
Rory McIlroy: Another week, another top 10 but not the victory that all gamers expect when he tees it up. His worst finish this year is T25 and HE’S NOT MAKING ANYTHING on the greens. He had 22 birdies this week and didn’t make anything. The common thread is the one bad round each tournament that’s keeping him from more hardware. He turned 25 today and has two major championships each by eight shots. He’s close folks!
What happened to my pre-tournament favorites?
Rory McIlroy: T8, see above.
Jim Furyk: Second, see above.
Lee Westwood: When course form meets hot play MC should NOT occur. Since this is real life and real golf, sh!t happens sometimes. He was my Group 2 selection, Group A play and OAD selection this week. Racking up three doubles on Friday after playing Houdini on Thursday wasn’t going to cut it. #crashandburn.
Rickie Fowler: He was T62 heading into Sunday before 67 pushed him up 24 spots to T38. As with any player revamping their swing, there are going to be really good days and days that make gamers tear their respective hair out. His bogey-free 67 on Sunday will be a nice springboard into THE PLAYERS next week.
Ryan Moore: He’s now played four consecutive weekends in Charlotte and his final round 66 was the second lowest one of Sunday. He began the day T56 and after five birdies, an eagle and one bogey he finished T18. Not bad for his first start since Augusta but not surprising either as he’s finished T5, T6 and T18 in his last three at Quail Hollow.
Justin Rose: Fifth, see above.
Jimmy Walker: I let J.B Holmes rot on my bench Thursday AND Friday as I was hoping to get more than one round of DY-NO-MITE this week. Boom went the dynamite instead as I have to lead the league in bench points this season. Anyhow, Walker proved that he is human as he was a HEALTHY MC for the first time since the DBC last September. He MC at Torrey Pines but his wife told us on the Twitter that their whole crew was sick that week. I’m over it!
J.B. Holmes: Proud to say I had him in the top 12 this week, plus Group C in Yahoo! and Group 3 in the GolfChannel.com game.
Gary Woodland: With three bogeys in his last five holes the big hitter missed out on another top 10 this season but his weekend streak is currently at 11 after his T18. He’s free money and will only get better.
Jason Kokrak: My dark horse this week in the Call to Order send gamers on the roller coaster ride that comes with hopping on most youngsters. His 75 on Thursday was backed by 68 on Friday to comfortably make the cut. Investing in him on Saturday added another layer of frustration as needed 73 of them to get around. He moved up 29 spots on Sunday to land in the top 25 (T23) as he fired 68 which included the only birdie of the day on No. 18. Kokrak was in the top 12 as I felt his momentum was carrying him in the right direction after T12 his last time out at Harbour Town. It doesn’t hurt that he hits it a mile and can really putt just like Flores and Woodland. He should be on the radar!
Zach Johnson: He made back-to-back doubles on Sunday on the back nine and still finished T14. He ground out a pair of birdies after his two missteps, just like gamers thought he would. That’s eight on the bounce in Charlotte for the short hitter.
Phil Mickelson was listed as a FADE for me this week because I didn’t believe his current form could overcome his excellent, yet non-winning course history at Quail Hollow. If there is one thing that Mickelson is not it is boring. He got everyone lathered up on Thursday after opening up with 67. Then, Phil’s gonna Phil and BANG, 75 on Friday. After the cussing and moaning wore off with the hangover on Saturday morning he goes out and blasts 63. Good grief. Nick Faldo said he missed six putts inside of four feet on Sunday to finish up with 76. He was two shots out of the lead behind a guy who hadn’t won in six years and another guy who had one finish inside the top four in his life. Let me know when this gets figured out. Next year, we’ll all see T11 and say REMEMBER, HE’S AWESOME ON THIS TRACK but we’ll forget he should have/could have won. Well, at least those with him in their lineups this week won't. Let’s hope he’s saving the four rounds of history for Pinehurst next month!
And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat Wednesday at NOON ET. We will be breaking down the field at THE PLAYERS and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter. Don’t forget to follow Rob (http://twitter.com/RobBoltonGolf) and Glass (http://twitter.com/mikeglasscott) on Twitter.