J.B. and his game are healthy

This is the way it was supposed to be for J.B. Holmes, who had greatness written all over him when he captured the FBR Open at TPC Scottsdale in 2006 and 2008.

Holmes, who defends his title this week in the Wells Fargo Championship, won his first FBR title by seven strokes and beat none other than Phil Mickelson in a playoff for the second.

“I’m happy for J.B.” Mickelson said after J.B. beat him with a birdie on the first extra hole, hitting a 359-yard drive and sinking a six-foot putt.

“I think he’s a credit and a talent for American golf. I think he’s going to hopefully make the Ryder Cup team and Presidents Cup team, to be a mainstay on those teams because he’s just got a lot of talent.”

Holmes was one of the stars, as the home folks in Kentucky chanted his name when the United States captured the Ryder Cup later in 2008 at Valhalla in Louisville, scoring the winning point by beating Miguel Angel of Jimenez in singles.

And then, nothing, at least when it came to his golf game.

Actually there was something, as Holmes underwent two brain surgeries in 2011 after suffering from vertigo for several months.

Following tests, J.B. was diagnosed with structural defects in the cerebellum known as Chiari malformations and he underwent brain surgery on Sept. 1, 2011.

About a month later, doctors discovered that Holmes was allergic to the adhesive used on the webbed titanium plate at the base of his skull and he was airlifted from his home in Kentucky to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore for another surgery.

After struggling the last few seasons because of an elbow injury, Holmes finally made it all the way back last year at Quail Hollow when he beat Jim Furyk by one stroke to claim his third PGA Tour victory in the Wells Fargo Championship.

Even though Furyk hadn’t won since 2010, he knew a feel-food story when he saw one.

“I know he was probably dying a million deaths out there, but he sucked it up and made a good two-putt,” said Furyk, who won the Wells Fargo Championship in 2006. “(He) made that last putt with authority and knocked it right in the middle.”

Said Holmes: “It’s been a long journey for me. I’ve had some ups and downs. It’s a great feeling to be out there and to get one done.

” … It’s nice to get in the winner’s circle again and my game is in a good spot, and I worked really hard on it on the offseason last year — the whole year was my offseason, I guess — but it’s nice to have that hard work pay off.”

Holmes had some flashes of greatness early in his career, but this season he is completely living up to his expectations and those that golf analysts had for him almost 10 years ago.

After losing to Jason Day on the second hole of a playoff at the Farmers Insurance Open in February, he finished one stroke behind winner Dustin Johnson in the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral, where he shot 10-under-par 62 in the first round.

Then last month, Holmes beat Johnson Wagner with a par on the second playoff hole after the current rising star, Jordan Spieth, dropped out on the first extra hole when he could manage only par while Holmes and Wagner carded birdies.

Being a deeply religious man, and after what he’s been through, J.B. gave thanks to a higher power.

“Such a great day being on Easter, Christ rising again,” said Holmes, who birdied the first five holes and seven of the first eight en route to a closing 8-under-par 64. “I was happy to be out there today, know how lucky I am that He’s in my life, and just got a lot of good bounces, made a lot of putts. One of those days that everything went well and what a day for it.

” … I’ve had some unfortunate things happen. I learned from them and grew in that situation as a person. It helped me to get where I am now. Being healthy — this game is hard enough not being healthy. Being healthy has helped and I’ve been able to work on my game and worked really hard to get back here.”

It was a long and winding road, but he’s exactly where he was supposed to be.

–Story courtesy of The Sports Xchange, TSX Golf Editor Tom LaMarre

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