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JB Holmes ready for more success

Six months ago, American J.B. Holmes was a big-hitting amateur and a member of the triumphant U.S. Walker Cup team.

On Monday morning, he woke up to the reality that he now has a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour after winning his first title on his fourth start as a tour member.

Life could hardly be much better for the 23-year-old from Campbellsville in Kentucky, who is hungry to return to the winner's circle as soon as possible.

"It was one of my goals to win out here and it happened real quickly," he told reporters after coasting to a seven-shot victory at the Phoenix Open in Scottsdale, Arizona on Sunday.

"I didn't expect it so soon but I knew that I had the ability. Every tournament I played, I just got more confidence and more confidence.

"Now I want to win another one," added Holmes, who became the fastest player to earn $1 million on the PGA Tour, surpassing South Africa's Retief Goosen who took five tournaments in 2001.

"You have a chance to do something great every week, and that's what's so great about the tour. I can go out next week and miss the cut and play terrible, but I can go out the following week and win."

The two-year PGA Tour exemption means more to Holmes than his winner's cheque for $936,000.

"Two years exempt on tour means better tee times," he said with a broad smile after firing a closing five-under-par 66 on the Stadium Course at the TPC of Scottsdale. "I've gone off last every tournament.

"I would have taken the win and no money because it opens up so much more stuff being a PGA Tour winner. It's a huge step from just being a PGA Tour player."

Holmes, a nine-year-old in the third grade when he first played on the high school team, has been driving the ball more than 300 yards since the age of 14.

At the Phoenix Open, he hit 47 of 56 drives over 300 yards while his average for the week was 320.5. Remarkably, he exceeded 340 yards 16 times with his best of the week a 365-yard effort at the par-five 13th hole in the second round.

"I started at a young age, and there were always people that hit it longer," said Holmes, who rocketed from 464th to 77th in the world rankings with his breakthrough win. "But playing with people my age, I always hit it longer."

Asked whether he had played with anyone in the professional ranks who drove the ball further, he replied: "Not consistently.

"I've played with somebody if I don't hit a great drive or something like that they'll hit one past me. But I've never played with anybody who consistently hits it past me."

Known for his prodigious length and compact swing, Holmes is virtually self-taught.

"My father says my swing is the same now as the first time I picked up a club," he said. "Not a whole lot has changed. It's just been God-given ability so far."

Holmes, who turned professional last year after a highly successful college career, thrilled the Phoenix Open fans with an awesome display of power hitting and clutch putting.

With his engaging smile and celebratory fist pump whenever he made a lengthy putt, the PGA Tour rookie's enjoyment as he went about his business was clear for all to see.

Yet Holmes was also able to cut himself off from the decibel level at the loudest and best-attended PGA Tour event of the year.

"I focus on golf and zone everything else out," he said. "You don't need all those distractions. You're playing golf and people are there to watch.

"You've got to acknowledge them a little bit because they're there, but there's a time and place for that."

February 7, 2006

 




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