2006: Future arrives in Holmes’ rout

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.

David Toms found himself staring way, way, way down the fairway during the third round of the FBR Open, and it wasn’t just the canary yellow pants flashy rookie Camilo Villegas was sporting in the group ahead that was commandeering his attention.

“You know,” said Toms, “I kept looking at Villegas out there in those yellow pants, about 340 yards down the middle in front of me every hole, and I said to (Mark) Calcavecchia, ‘Man, that’s the future of our tour . . . these young guys just bombing it out there.’

“They’re just bombing it out there and having fun playing golf in front of all these people. More power to them. I wish I could do it.”

There’s a new dawn on the PGA Tour, and filling it is a group of talented young bombers who are long, strong and fearless. Bubba Watson’s prodigious power display in Hawaii already had Tour veterans talking among themselves on the practice tee; fellow long-hitting rookie J.B. Holmes now has taken the conversation to an entirely new level.

Playing in front of the largest galleries in PGA Tour history – more than 536,000 filed through the gates into the weeklong party at TPC of Scottsdale – the freshly minted pro from Kentucky put on a dominating all-around display of brawn and finesse, coasting to a commanding seven-shot victory Feb. 5 in only his fourth start as a Tour member.

A 5-under 31 over his final nine holes and closing 66 lifted Holmes to a total of 21-under 263, earning him $936,000 – nearly $900,000 more than he took home for his first “victory” when he captured the Tour’s grueling Q-School two months to the day of his FBR triumph.

“It’s just been a whirlwind,” said Holmes, 23, who became the youngest Phoenix Open winner since Jerry Pate (23 years, 3 months, 3 days) in 1977. “I want to win another one. You have a chance to do something great every week, and that’s what’s so great about the Tour.”

Villegas, who played on a sponsor exemption, tied for second alongside Steve Lowery, Scott Verplank, J.J. Henry and Ryan Palmer.

The final round turned on the 552-yard 15th hole. Palmer, who trailed Holmes by a shot, found the water twice en route to a triple-bogey 8; following yet another huge tee shot (this one with a 3-wood), Holmes reached the green with an approach from 263 yards over water – he used a 4-iron – and drained a 14-footer for eagle to get to 20 under.

Holmes added a birdie at the 17th – where he drove the 332-yard par-4 with a 3-wood – and made the journey to 18 on Super Bowl Sunday armed with a full touchdown lead (seven strokes). He saw his father in the crowd for the first time and gave him a big hug, then slapped hands with dozens of fans as he walked to the tee. Once there, he turned to veteran caddie Mike Carrick and said, “I’m going to hit this one really hard.”

As if there were any other way. Holmes’ final belt traveled 354 yards.

“He hits the ball forever,” Palmer said.

Holmes always has been a quick study. He picked up a club at 14 months old. (“My dad said my swing hasn’t changed very much since then.”) He made the high school golf team at Taylor County (Ky.) when he was in the third grade – he would earn a whopping 10 varsity letters – and to keep up with his older teammates, he learned early on to swing for the fences.

Holmes used to play a big hook in his junior career, but shortly before leaving Campbellsville for the University of Kentucky in Lexington he approached the pro at his club and asked if he could help him hit a cut. The pro told him it might take some time to adjust. Holmes went out and shot 63 twice that week.

In Scottsdale, he showed there is a great deal more to his game than tape-measure drives. He finished higher in putting (eighth, with 1.66 putts per hole using his Claw grip) than he did in driving distance (13th, at 308 yards). He one-putted 35 times, had only one three-putt, played the par-4 holes in 11 under and when he did find trouble occasionally, he scrambled well. He went 6-for-6 in sand saves.

Holmes knew he’d win one day on Tour. But in his fourth start?

“It was one of my goals to win out here,” he said. “I didn’t expect it so soon.”

Apparently, today’s future is long on many things – but patience isn’t among them.

– Staff and wire reports

Welcome to Golfweek.com's comments section.
Please review the posting guidlines here: Golfweek.com Community Guidelines.
All accounts must be verified using Disqus email verification