Rookie Holmes wins FBR Open by seven shots

Updated: February 5, 2006, 7:21 PM ET
Associated Press

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- When J.B. Holmes reached the third grade, he was good enough to play on the high school golf team. Four tournaments into his PGA Tour career, he again showed he can play with the big boys.

The rookie gained five shots on his nearest competitor on the 15th hole and walked away with a seven-stroke victory Sunday in the FBR Open.

The hard-driving 23-year-old from Kentucky shot a 5-under 66 in the final round -- 5-under 31 on the back nine -- to finish at 21-under 263 and win $936,000. Combined with the $127,500 he won for a 10th-place tie at the Sony Open in Hawaii, Holmes became the fastest to win $1 million on the tour. It took Retief Goosen five tournaments to reach $1 million in 2001.

"It was one of my goals to win out here. It happened real quickly," Holmes said. "I didn't expect it so soon. I knew I had the ability. Every tournament I played, I just got more confidence and more confidence. It's just been a whirlwind right now."

Ryan Palmer, who made the turn with a one-shot lead, hit the water twice for a triple bogey on the par-5, 552-yard 15th, while Holmes, his playing partner, sank a 14-footer for eagle. Holmes' one-shot lead expanded to six, and the tournament was decided.

Palmer (72) tied for second with Steve Lowery (67), J.J Henry (72), Camilo Villegas (69) and Scott Verplank (68) at 14-under 270. Defending champion Phil Mickelson (66) birdied five of his last six holes, including the last four in a row, to join Justin Leonard (71) and Jonathan Byrd (68) at 13 under.

Holmes displayed a calm demeanor that stemmed from his days as a third-grader playing on the high school team in Campbellsville, Ky.

"Playing with older people, you learn not to be intimidated as much," he said.

The top finisher in last year's PGA Tour qualifying tournament, Holmes is the first rookie to win a tournament since Sean O'Hair in the John Deere Classic last July. O'Hair was the only rookie to win last year.

On the 17th, Holmes got a surprise when he saw his father, who had flown in for the final round.

"He always said he'd be at my first one," Holmes said.

Maurice Holmes, who fashioned a wood club with a plastic handle for his son when J.B. was 14 months old, walked with pride behind him down the 18th fairway, as proud of the youngster's demeanor as he was of his accomplishment.

"He's a good boy," Maurice Holmes said. "I always told him don't let your hat get too big, and it hasn't."

On the 15th, Holmes reached the green easily in two with a 263-yard 4-iron shot over the water, then sank the 14-footer to go to 20 under. Palmer, meanwhile, twice hit the water and got a triple-bogey, tumbling from 17 under to 14 under.

Palmer's tee shot landed on the fairway, then bounced downhill into the water, scattering birds along the way.

"Nothing was going to stop that ball except for the ducks, and they almost did," Palmer said. "I'd been driving the ball good all day, and when I drove that one, it was just one little slip."

After his drop, Palmer again hit the water. He dropped again, got on the green and three-putted to end any hope for his second PGA Tour win.

Holmes, meanwhile, hit his tee shot 300 yards down the middle of the fairway, then cleared the water with a beautiful second shot. After the 14-footer, Holmes pumped his fist in triumph.

"I felt really bad for Ryan," Holmes said. "You hate to see anybody do that. But I hit some good shots and made eagle."

Palmer made the turn with a one-shot lead after rolling in a 7-foot downhill putt for birdie on the par-4 ninth hole. But Holmes, who led by one entering the final round, birdied the 10th to tie it.

On the par-4, 469-yard 11th, Palmer hit his tee shot into the water. The subsequent bogey dropped him to 16 under and put Holmes in front for good.

Holmes birdied the 17th, and with a seven-shot lead, sent his tee shot 354 yards on the 18th, then slapped hands with fans inside the rope as he walked down the 18th fairway.

Holmes and Palmer thought the biggest shot for the winner was his 22-foot birdie putt to maintain a one-shot lead on the par-5 13th. Holmes said that and the 4-iron on No. 15 were the big ones.

A crowd of 82,150 attended the final day, bringing the best-attended PGA Tour event's total to a record 536,767. The crowd was about half the size of the one that created a raucous party atmosphere on Saturday. It was a more subdued group, too, but still far more lively than the average tour gallery.

A man heckling Leonard was escorted off the course at the eighth hole. The man shouted "good putt" after Leonard missed a short putt for bogey. Leonard asked the man "You have a problem with me?" as he left for the ninth tee. Shortly afterward, police escorted the heckler away. It was the second consecutive bogey for Leonard, who regrouped to chip in from 44 feet for an eagle on the par-4 17th to finish at 13 under.

Tom Pernice narrowly missed a hole-in-one on the par-3 16th when the ball came to rest on the lip of the cup.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press