LOS ANGELES: PGA Tour rookie J.B. Holmes coasted to a seven-shot victory at the Phoenix Open in Scottsdale, Arizona, with an awesome display of power hitting and clutch putting on Sunday.
One ahead overnight, American Holmes eagled the par-five 15th and drove the green at the par-four 17th on the way to a five-under 66 on the Stadium Course at the TPC of Scottsdale.
The 23-year-old from Kentucky, who turned professional last year after a highly successful college career, finished on 21-under 263, sealing his breakthrough win in his fourth start since becoming a PGA Tour member.
He also became the quickest player to earn US$1mil on the PGA Tour, surpassing South Africa’s Retief Goosen who needed five tournaments in 2001.
“Everything has happened so fast, it probably hasn’t sunk in yet,” Holmes told reporters. “Wow, what a day! It’s hard to put it into words. This is just phenomenal. I’m so excited.
“It was one of my goals to win out here. I knew I had the ability, I just didn’t expect it so soon,” added the former Walker Cup amateur who won the 2005 PGA Tour qualifying tournament.
Compatriot Ryan Palmer had led by a stroke with nine holes to play but fell back into a five-way tie for second place with a closing 72 that included a triple-bogey eight on 15.
Level with Palmer were fellow Americans Steve Lowery (67), Scott Verplank (68) and J.J. Henry (72), plus PGA Tour rookie Camilo Villegas of Colombia (69).
Defending champion Phil Mickelson birdied five of the last six holes for a 66 and a tie for seventh at 13-under with Justin Leonard (71) and Jonathan Byrd (68).
Regularly powering the ball more than 320 yards off the tee, Holmes holed a 22-footer for birdie at the par-five 13th before rolling in a 15-foot eagle putt at the 15th to stretch his lead to six.
His booming tee shot on 17 set up his third birdie of the day before he signed off with a 354-yard drive and a par at the last.
Holmes, who received a winner’s cheque for US$936,000 and a two-year PGA Tour exemption, became the first rookie to triumph on the Tour since Sean O’Hair at last year’s John Deere Classic.
He also became the ninth PGA Tour player to claim his maiden title at the Phoenix Open, following Ed Furgol (1954), Rod Funseth (1965), Dudley Wysong (1966), Bob Gilder (1976), Jeff Mitchell (1980), Paul Azinger (1987), Tommy Armour III (1990) and Jesper Parnevik (1998).
Palmer, chasing his second PGA Tour title, relinquished the lead with a bogey at the par-four 11th where he pulled his drive left into water.
Worse was to come, though, at the 15th where he found water off the tee and with his attempt to reach the green with his third shot. A three-putt for an ugly eight ended his title bid.
Palmer, however, managed to par the last three holes to stay at 14-under.
Crowds of 82,150 turned out at the Tournament Players Club of Scottsdale on Sunday, lifting the total for the week to a tournament record of 536,767. – Reuters