J.B. Holmes is just happy to be playing golf again professionally. After undergoing brain surgery in 2011, then having to sit out more time with an elbow injury suffered in hitting too many balls during his comeback, Holmes is back in the winner’s circle with the Wells Fargo Championship trophy. His 1-under 71 in the final round was good enough for a one-shot victory over Jim Furyk, who closed strong with a 65 on Sunday at the Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, NC.
Holmes had to undergo surgery twice; once for a structural defect in his cerebellum that removed part of his skull, and the again because of an allergic reaction to some adhesive on the plate that was positioned at the base of his skull. In his haste to get back on tour, he injured his elbow after hitting too many shots. He was allowed back onto the PGA Tour under a medical exemption, and had just earned enough money last week to keep his card for the rest of the year. With his total of 14-under par 274 and first place in the Wells Fargo Championship, Holmes has now qualified for next week’s Players Championship, and the PGA Championship later this summer. “It’s been a long journey for me,” said Holmes to Peter Kostis of CBS after holing his winning three-footer on 18, “I had some ups and downs so it’s a great feeling to be out here and to get one done. I’m happy the way the year’s going so far.”
The final day of the Wells Fargo Championship was not easy for Holmes, although it appeared it would be through the first half of his back nine. He got all the way to 16-under after four birdies and a bogey through the first 15 holes on Sunday. Nothing is assured, however, until golfers have run the gauntlet called the “Green Mile,” which is the nickname for the difficult final three holes at Quail Hollow. A bogey at 16 and a par-save at 17 left Holmes with a two-shot lead heading into No. 18, a 493-yard par-4 with a stream on the left and bunkers and trees on the right. He pushed his tee shot beyond the bunkers and into the trees, and was left to lay up on his second shot. A weak approach then came to rest on the bottom tier of the green, 45 feet away from the hole. He two-putted for bogey, but it was good enough to earn him more than $1.2 million in first-prize money.
Furyk was second at 13-under, and Martin Flores was alone in third with 12-under. Jason Bohn finished fourth 11-under and Justin Rose, at 10-under, was fifth.
Many of the patrons at the Wells Fargo Championship showed up Sunday to see if Phil Mickelson could come all the way back and capture the title, but it was not meant to be. Mickelson started the day just two strokes out of the lead, but never got a birdie until No. 13 and by then he was a footnote. Three bogies and a double bogey did him in, and he finished well back at 7-under par.
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Commentary by Chuck Podhaisky