Holmes defeats Mickelson in FBR playoff
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2008 FBR Open | Round Four | 04 Feb 2008
J.B Holmes made it two from three at the US$6 million FBR Open when he held off Phil Mickelson to win at the first playoff hole of the TPC Scottsdale’s Stadium Course.
Holmes had won this event in just his 4th start as a rookie in 2006 and today took a two shot lead into the final round looking to confirm his status as one of the game’s most exciting players. He made a good start in his quest to do just that but a shaky stretch in the middle of his round threatened to derail his chances. Three bogeys in four holes through the turn brought him back to the field.
With the world number two, Phil Mickelson closing fast, Holmes appeared to give himself a cushion when he escaped from the trees at the 13th for birdie but a poor second to the par five 15th, when indecision seemed to get the better of him, cost him a bogey after finding the water and he had fallen behind Mickelson.
Mickelson had battled through the front nine.
“I was fighting it on the front nine but kept getting it up and down to keep myself in it and then things started to get better over the closing nine holes,” said Mickelson after his round of 67.
Against the advice of his caddie Bones who was keen for him to lay-up, Mickelson produced a brilliant shot at the par five 15th.
“I respected what Bones was saying but I knew where the flag was today that even a lay-up would make that flag hard to access so decided to go for it.”
Mickelson hit a brilliant fairway wood to 25 feet and although he could only two putt for birdie he was only one behind. Mickelson was just short with his tee shot at the reachable par four 17th and made birdie from five feet and although he was unable to birdie the last he had set the mark for Holmes to chase.
Despite a brilliant three wood just short at the short par four 17th, Holmes was unable to convert and he headed to the final hole one behind Mickelson. He smashed a drive, as only he could, along the left hand rough line and finished only 70 or so yards from the hole at the 438 yard hole. His pitch finished 15 feet short but the putt never looked anywhere else but in and he had joined Mickelson at 14 under.
The playoff was over quickly with Holmes pitching his second shot to eight feet behind the hole and then making the putt after Mickelson had missed his from much longer range.
Holmes is the second winner on the PGA Tour in 2008 to return from a jaunt down-under during the off season. He follows the lead set by Daniel Chopra in Hawaii as players who have benefitted by playing events in Australia and may convince more to follow suit. Holmes finished 10th at the Australian PGA Championship while Chopra was beaten in a playoff at the MasterCard Masters in Melbourne.
Charles Warren finished alone in third narrowly missing birdie opportunities at the 16th and 17th before finally converting at the last to get within one of the playoff.
Steve Elkington continued his resurgence by sharing fourth with Stuart Appleby, Kevin Na, Kevin Sutherland and Ben Crane.
The next best of the Australians was Nick O’Hern who slipped back in his final round to finish 13th after being in a challenging position after 36 holes, Jason Day showed further improvement when 20th, Robert Allenby was 25th, Stephen Leaney 30th, John Senden 43rd and Nathan Green 50th.
The PGA Tour will now head back west to California for the AT&T Pebble Beach event.
In a footnote to the event a nice story to report on Phil Mickelson.
Mickelson was given a couple of prized tickets to the Super-Bowl final being held just down the road in Phoenix. Sensing that the timing was getting a little tight, Mickelson sought out a father and son amongst the spectators late in his round, who he thought may be interested in going to the game. He got his caddy to give the tickets to them.
When asked later about the gesture Mickelson responded. “I was given the tickets for a promo I had done and knowing how much I enjoy spending time with my children either as a family or in a one on one situation I thought they might like it.”
Mickelson was keen to keep his gesture quiet but television spotted caddy Bones giving the tickets away. When last seen the father and son team were still coming to terms with their good fortune of not only being given the chance to see the Super-Bowl but just who had created that chance for them.