Squaring off with world No. 2-ranked Phil Mickelson in a playoff at Sunday's FBR Open, J.B. Holmes nevertheless felt he had the advantage.
Holmes turned out to be correct. After sinking a 13-foot birdie putt at No. 18 to force the playoff with Mickelson, Holmes made an eight-footer on the first playoff hole to come away with the victory at TPC Scottsdale.
Although Holmes is ranked No. 199 in the world and Mickelson has 31 career PGA Tour victories to his credit, Holmes' reasoning for why he had the advantage was simple.
"He had been sitting — he hadn't played in 30, 40 minutes," Holmes told reporters when asked about his level of concern about playing Mickelson. "I'm sure he was hitting balls and stuff, but I just walked right off the green and went back and played the hole I just played.
"I felt like I could carry the bunker real easy, and Phil — I thought Phil could, but I think he decided to hit 3-wood. When a guy is hitting 3-wood and I'm hitting driver and I'm 80 yards past him, I mean, how can you not feel like you have the advantage?"
While not as big of a shocker as what transpired in Sunday's Super Bowl 30 miles away in Glendale, Ariz. — the New York Giants upset the heavily-favored New England Patriots — most observers probably gave the edge to Mickelson, who owned a 7-2 career record in playoffs. However, Holmes blistered his tee shot in the playoff, hitting his driver 359 yards down the middle of the fairway.
"Oh, yeah, I smoked it," Holmes said of the drive that set up a short approach shot that settled to within eight feet of the cup. "I thought it actually went farther than it went. I just absolutely killed it, and it was on a rope. No doubt in my mind it was over the bunker and up there."
The clutch finish came on a day when it appeared Holmes was destined to give the golf tournament away in the middle of his round. Starting with No. 7, he made three bogeys in a four-hole span to open the door for others.
"I fought through it," Holmes said. "I hit some bad shots, but it's golf. Nobody goes out there and hits a perfect shot every time."
That was especially the case at No. 18. After failing to birdie the hole in each of his first three rounds, Holmes birdied it twice within a 20-minute span Sunday.
"Starting the day, I would have gladly taken getting into a playoff, but I've got to give J.B. a lot of credit for birdieing the last hole and birdieing again to get in the playoff," Mickelson told reporters after carding his second consecutive round of 4-under 67. "That's pretty impressive golf."
Charles Warren finished alone in third place at 13-under 271. Stuart Appleby, Ben Crane, Steve Elkington, Kevin Na and Kevin Sutherland all tied for fourth at 12-under 272.
Holmes shot even-par 71 in the final round, to finish tied with Mickelson at 14-under 270 through 72 holes. The victory in Holmes' first career playoff was worth $1.08 million, which pushed him to the top of the PGA Tour money list, and the 4,500 FedEx Cup points moved him to fourth in the standings, just four points behind K.J. Choi.
Both of Holmes' PGA Tour victories have come in the FBR Open. He also won the tournament as a rookie in 2006.
This time, Holmes did it in dramatic fashion in a tournament that set a new overall attendance record, drawing 538,356 fans.
"I can play under pressure, I guess," Holmes said. "I've always tended to do well under pressure, in junior golf and college and everything. I didn't have my best stuff today, but I fought and I hung in there and I made it when I needed to."
February 4, 2008
Davis Love III, who played the final 57 holes of the Children's Miracle Network Classic without a bogey, finished at 25-under 263 in the season-ending event played at the Walt Disney World Golf Resort in Florida. It has been a long road back for Love, who severely sprained his ankle late last year. After tearing ligaments, he needed surgery, and he's spent much of this year rehabilitating the injury.
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