Alternate Shot: Holmes vs. Watson
The two freshest faces of the PGA Tour are like something out of a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle mystery novel.
Holmes and Watson, together again.
Of course, Sherlock and Dr. John have been replaced by J.B. and Bubba, but the sleuthing remains, including this brainteaser: Which PGA Tour rookie has the brighter future?
Bob Harig and Jason Sobel each grabbed a deerstalker hat, magnifying glass and drop-step pipe for this week's Alternate Shot, looking for a solution that isn't so elementary, my dear golf fan.
It wasn't so much the fact that J.B. Holmes bombed tee shots across Arizona on his way to victory at the FBR Open a few weeks ago. Or that he won the tournament by seven strokes, an impressive feat in only his fourth tournament as a member of the PGA Tour. All of that bodes well for his future.
No, it is more the fact that nothing seems to bother this guy. Gone are the days when rookies fear their opponents and need some seasoning to get their feet on the ground. But Holmes has taken that lack of fear to a new level.
Holmes, 23, didn't even turn pro until last year, then went right out and advanced through all three stages of the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament. You can usually count on one hand the number of players who make it through all three stages, but Holmes went even better than that. He was medalist in his first trip, defeating Alex Cejka by three strokes.
Why such cool under pressure? It probably has a lot to do with having something to prove. Holmes didn't get much consideration when heading to college, so he signed with Kentucky, where he was the SEC Player of the Year last season. Not bad, considering the Wildcats are not exactly a golf powerhouse. He was also a member of the 2005 Walker Cup team.
Then, after making it through Q School, Holmes posts a top 10 in his first event. A few weeks later, he wins.
Yes, Holmes hits the ball a long way and makes it look easy. That is sure to help him down the road. But it's more about his mental capabilities, the fact that little seems to bother him. That will serve him quite well.
It is getting there that is the problem.
-- Bob Harig
Big, brash Bubba Watson isn't on the PGA Tour to make friends. He's here to mash the ball and win golf tournaments -- and he won't pull any punches, either.
Asked at the Sony Open which players can hang with him off the tee, Watson responded, "I don't think John Daly or Hank Kuehne or Scott Hend, I don't think they can hang with me when I'm hitting it. If I hit my best, there's not too many people that can get within shouting distance."
Outspoken? Sure, but he can back up confidence with competence. Watson currently leads the tour in driving distance at 320.1 yards per drive with that pink-shafted driver of his, but it's not so much his tee shots that are impressive as where they lead. His greens-in-regulation percentage of 73.3 is fifth among his peers, meaning that while Bubba might drive for show, he's got enough shots in his arsenal to win some dough.
Need some more stats? Watson's scoring average of 69.60 is 15th on tour. He already owns a pair of top-five finishes, and in his last start at the Chrysler Classic of Tucson, he didn't make a single bogey over 72 holes, finishing T-3. Ask Daly, Kuehne or Hend: Man cannot live on driving distance alone. A bogey-free four-round tournament requires more skill than that.
At 27, Watson's no Bubba-come-lately. He finished 21st on last year's Nationwide Tour money list, and through four PGA Tour events in his rookie season he's already more than halfway to earning his card for 2007.
His experience on other professional tours will have Bubba fully prepared for everything the big leagues have to offer. With a victory under his belt already, J.B. Holmes looks to have a bright future. But Bubba Watson just might be the next American golfing idol.
-- Jason Sobel