Wells Fargo Championship. Holmes Hits the High Spot.

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J.B. Holmes hits the high spots as he wins the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow.

Winner: JB Holmes poses with the trophy after securing victory in the final round of the Wells Fargo Championship

Wells Fargo Champion J.B. Holmes 

At his lowest point J.B. had undergone more than enough surgeries, now at his high point he has won the Wells Fargo Championship. Hanging on to his one shot victory with a last round -1 under par 71 and -14 under par total. He spoke of his huge achievement;

”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. This is a big win for me. It’s been since 2008 since I’ve won, and since then I had two brain surgeries and broke my ankle and had arm surgery, the list goes on. So it’s a huge win and to get in the top 20 in the FedEx Cup, that’s huge, and just to win in a venue like this with such a good field and the golf course is always so well-manicured, it’s just great. I’m just ecstatic.”

” Nobody is comfortable on those last three holes.”

Jim Furyk came racing up the leaderboard with a final round -7 under par, and to sit in the clubhouse to see if anyone could get better than his -13 under par total. Jim had to wait until the very last putt before he knew there would be no play-off, and second was the best he could do. Jim was aware of the pressure J.B. was under on that last putt;

“I know he was probably dying a million deaths out there but he sucked it up and made a good two-putt. He made that last putt with authority and knocked it right in the middle.”

 

Martin Flores claimed third place at -12 under par, a very disappointing last round effort of even par 70 left him to count the cost.

Jason Bohn was in fourth, at -11 under par while the reigning U.S. Open champion Justin Rose was a further shot back at -10 under par.

Justin was surprised that his world ranking is still in good shape, he said all the top people have had some strange results;

“I’ve been surprised how my world ranking has maintained itself because the top guys have also been struggling. The guys haven’t stretched out. No. 1 in the world is even more for the taking than it has been for a lot of players. Probably for 20 guys, if they get on a hot run, can challenge.”

“It has been slow for the top players, it’s been a weird year, 54-hole leaders haven’t done very well. A lot of young names. The Americans have done a lot better this year. And yet it doesn’t surprise me because the depth out here is so great. Before you always had that separation. Now in part you’ve got the top players not playing so great and in part the rest catching up.”

What about Phil Mickelson T 11 and Rory McIlroy T7 I hear you ask, I think it is best not to comment.

 

Wells Fargo Championship, J.B. Holmes Leads. Mickelson & McIlroy Move on Moving Day

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J.B. Holmes leads the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow, while Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy move on up on moving day.

Big-hitting Holmes in front

J.B. Holmes / Getty Images

J.Bwho retained status for the rest of the season last week on his major medical extension, carded a third-round 66 to grab the 54-hole lead at -13 under par in the Wells Fargo Championship on Saturday. He said retaining his status relieved the pressure on him;

” It was nice more than anything just to solidify my schedule a little but, it was nice to get that off my back. I’m happy to be out here and go out tomorrow and do the best I can, and if I win, that’s great. If it ends up not being my day, then I’m just thankful to be out here, and happy to have the opportunity that I have.”

He also thinks the enforced elbow surgery was t he best thing to happen to him;

“I thought it might be the best thing that could have happened to me. Gave me a year off from golf. I got to spend time with family and friends and did a lot of rehab, so it wasn’t all vacation, but it was nice to get away from it a little bit.”

 

Martin Flores / Getty

Martin Flores is still in the hunt, shooting a third round -3 under par 69 and a -12 under par tournament total. Martin had avoided looking at a scoreboard all day long;

“I didn’t look at a leaderboard all day. I just thought that was irrelevant, because there are so many good players out here, that if you’re not attacking and trying to move forward, you can get passed. So I didn’t even know where I was. I knew I was playing well. But, you know, I just didn’t think the leaderboard was important.”

 

In contention after 63

Phil Mickelson / Getty

Phil Mickelson is in third place after a making a big move on moving day, he posted a marvelous -9 under par bogey free 63. He carded seven birdies and an Eagle to attain his total of -11 under par. He said he put it all together today, a bit of an under statement;

“I was able to put everything together, I played well from tee to green. I hit the ball well, put it in play, I hit good iron shots and was able to capitalize on those shots with some good putts, and it feels good because I hadn’t really been able to put it all together this year.  It felt close, hasn’t felt far away, and to put it together today, it’s nice.”

“Historically here, the winner has not come from the last group, but from a few groups before. When you know that you’re out in front of the leaders, and you have a chance to kind of light up the board first, that’s an opportunity, and guys have typically done that here and won. It’s been tougher to follow suit, seeing those guys in front make birdies.”

Rory McIlroy also made a move today, a -7 under par round of 65, to move him up to -6 under par for the tournament and tied eleventh. In 2010 Rory also made the cut on the number,+1 over par, then proceeded to shoot a 62 in the final round to win. He is hoping that history will repeat itself, at least he has good memories;

“It does bring back memories, in 2010, I bogeyed the 18th hole on Saturday to shoot 66, so I had a putt on 18 to go one better. So that’s why I gave a first pump. I was sort of thinking of that. At least I’ve given myself a chance.”

Wells Fargo Championship. Marvelous Martin Leads

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Martin Flores leads the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow after a marvelous second round.

 

 

Flores' even-keeled nature benefits him at Wells Fargo

A delighted Martin Flores / Getty Images

Martin holed a 56-degree wedge from 105 yards for an Eagle at the par four 11th hole on Friday, and showed no sign of emotion. He ended the day tied at the top of the leaderboard at -9 under par;

” I’ve tried to refuse to think about winning, I just try to play my best each day and be very, very patient, because a lot of times in the past I’ve tried to be too perfect and for some reason this sport doesn’t really work out that way.”

‘”I actually got made fun of because I didn’t give any reaction. I had my head down and I was thinking, that’s a nice shot, let’s go make it, and then all of the sudden I heard the cheers.” 

“I need to continue being patient and let things unfold. It’s not easy to do but when you’re playing against the best in the world, you need to be sharp for the majority of that time.”

His caddy Brian Harman had to go pick the ball out of the hole, saying;

 ” Well, I guess I’ll go pick it up out of the hole, because I didn’t do anything.”

Martin is sharing the lead at -9 under par with Angel Cabrera, who shot a second round -3 under par 69 for his -9 under par total.

Angel has only made three cuts in nine starts this season, but thinks this course suits his style of play. He said this through an interpreter;

Honestly, it’s a course that lets me hit my driver a lot and for that reason, it probably fits my game well. That’s probably why I play well here.”

Justin Rose at Quail Hollow 2014

Justin Rose / Getty

 

Justin Rose is alone in third place at -8  under par, he carded -5 under par 67 , proving that he is definitely over the tendonitis which has dogged him for a while. The improvement to his health comes just in time for him to defend the US Open title at nearby Pinehurst Number Two next month. he was quite upbeat about his superb chip in from 70 feet  at the par-five 15th;

“Obviously you can never win it on Thursday and Friday, you can only lose it, so two solid days put me in good position for the weekend. Those chip-in eagles, they get you going. I did everything well in spells today and finished with a nice putt for par at the last hole, which made the day feel incredibly positive.”

” I’ve had a lot of stop-starts this year and I just felt like I needed to get toned and sharp, and that’s beginning to show up. It would be nice to go back to the US Open with the confidence of having just won a tournament.”

 

Lee Westwood did not make the cut, quite amazing as he has just won the Malaysian Open by a massive seven shots.

 

 

Wells Fargo Championship. Angel Cabrera Leads.

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Angel Cabrera leads at the conclusion of the opening round of the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow.

Cabrera's stellar putting leads to 66

Angel Cabrera / Getty Images

Angel rolled back the years and came out to shoot -6 under par 66, in the first round of the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow. He said that he enjoyed a very good round;

“I had a really good first round. I played very well on the greens, and I saved myself on the holes that I didn’t play so well.”  

Phil Mickleson is tied in second place with Martin Flores, both on -5 under par after their opening rounds of 67.

Jonathan Byrd, Webb Simpson and Stewart Cink are tied in fourth place at -4 under par.

On a tightly compacted leaderboard Rory McIlroy is not far behind in a group of players at -3 under par. Rory surprisingly stated that he is not relying on his putter;

“I holed some nice putts today, which was good to see. At least it tells me the stuff I’m working on is going in the right direction. I’ve always been the type of player that I’ve never had to rely on my putting too much. Obviously, you putt well, you’re going to do well and contend in tournaments.”

“But, I feel like I’ve always been a different sort of player, where even if sometimes I don’t putt so well, I’ll still be able to get it under par, because I can hit the greens on the par fives and two-putt those and hit a couple of iron shots close. I never felt like I needed to rely on my putting so much.”

With Rory on  that -3 under par are: Shawn Stefani, Vijay Singh, Kevin Na, Charles Howell 111, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Martin Laird and Martin Kaymer.

Martin Kaymer became just the third player this season to record back-to-back eagles on the PGA Tour. He  holed a 66-yard pitch for an Eagle at the par-4 eighth hole, a shot that became even more impressive considering the fact that it followed an Eagle at the par five, seventh hole.

Wells Fargo Championship @ Quail Hollow, Rickie Fowler Wins

       

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Lecka/Getty Image

Rickie Fowler won the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow in a three way playoff  against  Rory McIlroy and D.A. Points. All three players had finished the final round with a tournament total of -14 under par. Webb Simpson had an opportunity to join them in the playoff  but missed his birdie attempt on the last green.

On the first extra hole Rickie played a fabulous 51-degree wedge to within four feet of the 18th green flagstick, and held his nerve to sink the winning putt.  It was his first PGA TOUR win in his 67th start as a pro, bringing him a 500-point FedEx Cup points that pushed him to No. 15 in the latest standings. He said of his amazing approach shot;

“I didn’t want to play it safe. I had a good number, and I was aiming right of the hole with the wind coming out of the right, and if I hit a perfect shot, it comes down right on the stick. I hit a perfect shot at the right time, and I was going for it. “It’s awesome. It’s a long wait, but well worth it. Told you it was coming. It’s a good feeling right now. Definitely some relief, satisfaction. I’m definitely happy. It’s not a bad thing, winning. It’s kind of fun.”

He also said he enjoyed the rivalry with Rory;

“I’m looking forward to playing with Rory for a long time.”

Rory returned to No. 1 in the world with this performance at Quail Hollow, he finished tied for second with D.A. Points. Rory was impressed with Rickie’s birdie at the 18th in the playoff;

“You wouldn’t call the 18th today a birdie hole with that pin, For Rickie to go out and play that hole the way he did, he deserved to win. I think it was just a matter of time before he won”

Webb Simpson and Ryan Moore, who started the day in the final pairing, both failed to shine. Webb did have that missed opportunity to join the playoff, but too many mistakes on the day cost the local boy his chance. Ryan fell back into a tie for fifth place with Lee Westwood. Lee suffered again from a slow start in this tournament, it seems to becoming a bad habit of his.

Nick Watney failed to capitalize on a good start to this tournament, finishing his final round with a score of  74 and at -10 under par was four shots off the leaders.

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy has only played four competitive rounds in 50 odd days, that was at the Masters, where his highly promising halfway position was squandered over a miserable weekend that left him tied for 40th place.

Rory has stated that  he plays his best golf when at his freshest and certainly there can be no excuse for golf fatigue as he heads into the meat of the 2012 season. The reigning US Open Champion was four shots clear of the field at the Masters before imploding on the back nine on the Sunday final round. That left Bubba Watson and Louis Oosthuizen to battle it out in a playoff, which Bubba won, thanks to that magical shot.

Rory McIlroy

Photo: Getty

Rory’s  relatively light early season schedule has been designed to make sure he has plenty in the tank for a more hectic remainder of the year. So this week it is perhaps unfair, or unreasonable to expect the kind of fireworks at Quail Hollow we witnessed from him two years ago when he closed with a round of 62, to win by four strokes and land his maiden PGA Tour title. If the scheduling is correct it will  build nicely up to his US Open defence in June. After the Players’ he has a week’s break before the  schedule building up to his US Open defence in June looks spot on. After the Players’ he has a week’s break before the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, where Luke Donald is the defending champion. It is also the tournament where Luke became the Worlds number one, so we can look forward to a wonderful battle between Rory and Luke at Wentworth.

All players have varying approaches to scheduling, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are very much in the selective McIlroy mould.    So is Luke Donald, who just like the man he has recently displaced as world number one, has all  the added pressure of fulfilling the minimum requirements of the PGA and European Tours.

Each to his own, it is all about finding what works best for each player and Rory is sure he is close to the correct formula. His results suggest as much, but I guess time will tell. I look forward to the coming weeks in anticipation.