Hate to be Rude: Holmes optimistic about surgery

J.B. Holmes

J.B. Holmes

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11:57:01 PM ET. 04/23/2014




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Jeff Rude’s “I Hate To Be Rude” column appears on Golfweek.com on Wednesday, the same day as his video show of the same name.

One minute, J.B. Holmes, despite occasional dizziness, was hitting a drive 355 yards down the middle of the fairway at Atlanta Athletic Club. The next, he was hitting a simple iron shot fat and short. By the next morning, he was withdrawing from the PGA Championship, questioning his medication and making plans to see yet another brain specialist.

“I don’t hit these kind of (fat) shots,” Holmes, who felt sluggish because of medication and nervous in the Georgia heat, told his agent, Terry Reilly. “My depth perception is off.”

It had been for months, since he began experiencing vertigo-like symptoms at The Players Championship in May. At first, he thought he had vertigo. Then, he thought migraines were the problem. Finally, doctors concurred this summer that he was suffering from Chiari malformation – a structural defect in the cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls balance. When the indented bony space on the lower rear skull is too small, the subsequent pressure on the brain can cause problems related to dizziness, vision, headaches and coordination.

Last Tuesday, two days after the PGA, Holmes visited Dr. George Jallo, a prominent neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. The two-time PGA Tour winner then decided to have surgery there on Sept. 1. Holmes expects to chip and putt within 30 days after the operation, hit full shots within 60 days and return to competitive form within 90.

“We’re pretty optimistic,” Reilly said. “He’s gone though a battery of doctor visits. Everything’s been confirmed three times over. Dr. Jallo told him he thought the surgery would be helpful and get him back to where he’s supposed to be. The doctor told him it’s a relatively straightforward procedure, and he’s done hundreds of them, with a good success rate.”

Though No. 66 in FedEx Cup standings heading into this week’s playoff opener at The Barclays, Holmes chose to withdraw and prepare for surgery. He also chose to lower others’ fear with a statement.

“I know when people hear ‘brain surgery’ it conjures up all kinds images, but this a relatively low-risk surgery and only takes about an hour and a half,” the 2008 U.S. Ryder Cupper said. “Best of all, there’s a very high success rate in fixing the condition. It’s just such a relief to know that there’s a name for what I’ve been going through these past few months and that I have a good chance of getting back to golf and to my regular life.”

Since winning the PGA Championship 10 days ago, Keegan Bradley says something daily has happened that he can’t believe. Greg Norman called to congratulate. Tom Brady, his “absolute childhood hero,” left a text message two days after the victory.

“Pretty remarkable,” he said Tuesday from Plainfield Country Club in Edison, N.J., site of The Barclays.

Bradley took the Wanamaker Trophy on a tour of Jupiter, Fla., where he now lives, for a few days after winning. Then he flew to New York on Sunday night to hang out with the golf team of St. John’s University, his alma mater. He put on his Boston Red Sox cap, stayed with the players at their golf house in Queens, played golf with them Monday at Glen Oaks on Long Island and answered questions about the PGA and other things golf.

“It’s an honor to hang out with these guys and be able to talk to them,” said Bradley, a 2008 graduate. “They give me inspiration. . . . It wasn’t that long ago when I was sitting in a house in Queens with 85 dollars in my bank account and struggling around doing exactly what they are.”

Lest you think Bradley didn’t have a big-dog moment, consider that he did kick one of the players out of his bed so he could sleep in it.

“I did pull seniority there,” he said. “It’s Animal House-like.”

Bradley and Webb Simpson, Sunday winner of the Wyndham Championship, are in the top five entering the playoffs. That’s significant because anyone inside the top 5 entering the fourth and final playoff event would claim the FedEx Cup and $10 million bonus by winning the Tour Championship.

Simpson, 26, became the 12th first-time winner on Tour this year. He did so with a complete game that bears watching him not only in these playoffs but in years to come. Not only did he finish first in the strokes-gained putting category, he was in the top 15 in driving distance and accuracy and greens in regulation.

In his third Tour season, the Wake Forest alum has 15 top-25 finishes in 20 starts. But only this one warranted some wild celebration.

Simpson and his wife did so Sunday night by picking up food at Wendy’s and watching highlights at home with his caddie.

“Dinner of champions,” he said.

The putter of champions, meanwhile, is something longer than standard. Tour winners in the past three weeks have used long or belly putters.

Simpson switched to a belly putter during his first semester at Wake. He picked one up in a pro shop one day and made fun of it. But then he “took it out on the course for nine holes and made everything.”

Count him among those who think it would be “crazy” to ban putters that can be anchored against the body.

“If it was so easy, why isn’t everybody using it?” he said. “It’s still in the minority.”

For now, anyway.

Get ready for some final-hole drama this week. Plainfield’s uphill closing hole will be moved up to 295 yards, making it a drivable par 4.

For some.

They say every shot makes someone happy or sad. Well, for a slumping Justin Leonard, one stroke meant the difference between vacation and getting into the lucrative FedEx Cup playoffs for the top 125 in points.

Leonard tied for 17th Sunday at the Wyndham Championship, but it wasn’t enough. A bogey on the last hole dropped Leonard out of mix and into the 126th spot.

The 12-time Tour winner hasn’t finished better than 13th place in 23 starts this year. Long owner of one of golf’s best short games, Leonard ranks only 109th in the strokes-gained putting category and 164th in all-around.

You never know whom you might run into at the supermarket.

In a New Jersey grocery store Monday, Jim Furyk just got off the phone with his wife and was preoccupied with “about six different” things when a fan approached him.

We’ll let Simpson continue the story. He was there at the time, wearing shorts and a camouflage hat.

“I heard some crazy fan yelling his name,” Simpson said. “After they talked, you could tell Furyk didn’t want to talk to the guy. And I came up behind Jim and said, ‘Hey, Jim’ and put my hand out. He thought I was another crazed fan.”

Well, not exactly.

“I know who Webb is,” Furyk said. “So I said hello to him. I knew exactly who I was talking to.”

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