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Holmes Moving Forward after Coping with Health Issues


After undergoing brain surgery last September followed by another surgery a month later to relieve a fluid buildup on his brain, J.B. Holmes made his long-awaited return to competitive golf in last week's Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.

Though the 29-year-old failed to make the weekend cut after carding rounds of 76 on the South course and a 69 at North, Holmes was pleased to put behind him the physical travails and mental stress of the ailment, which was related to structural defects in the cerebellum known as Chiari malformations.

Holmes is in Scottsdale, Ariz., for the Waste Management Phoenix Open, a tournament he's won twice. The $6.1 million event starts Thursday at TPC Scottsdale. The long-hitting Kentuckian notched the only wins of his PGA Tour career in what was formerly called the FBR Open. In 2006 he beat J.J. Henry, Steve Lowery, Ryan Palmer, Scott Verplank and Camilo Villegas by a whopping seven strokes, then won again in 2008, edging Phil Mickelson on the first sudden-death playoff hole - the par-4 18th - after he propelled a 359-yard drive and made a six-foot birdie putt.

A week ago, Holmes recounted his thoughts before entering his initial surgery. "It's scary at first," he said. "Talking to the surgeon and stuff, he said for brain surgery, difficulty-wise for him it was only about a 1 out of 10. It's still brain surgery, but that at least made me feel better.

"Then I got to the hospital and started putting on the gown and everything else and it was like, 'Wow! I'm about to have brain surgery.' So it really hits you then. But you've just got to put your faith in God and just hope everything comes out good."

On Tuesday, Holmes met with the media to discuss his comeback and whether the current status of his game will be good enough to earn a third Phoenix Open title. Here's what he had to say.

MODERATOR: We'll get right down to it with the 2006 and 2008 Waste Management Phoenix Open champion. Thanks for joining us for a few minutes here. Last week the Tour welcomed you back after your time off recuperating from the surgery. You talked a lot last week, but maybe if you can bring the guys up to speed here on how you're feeling, how's the game, and looking forward to starting the week here at a place that's very near and dear to you.

JB HOLMES: Yeah, you know, it was great to just get back at it last week, and hopefully I can improve on that. I didn't play that great, but it was just nice to get back out there and get back in the swing of things. My game is not quite where I want it, but just trying to get out here and practice and just get my swing back.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about where your game really is? You were a lot better on the second round.

JB HOLMES: Yeah, I played better the second round. I'm putting well right now. I'm hitting my driver okay, hitting my irons pretty poorly right now. With not having the normal speed, my distances keep fluctuating, so it's hard to really zone in the irons and get the right distance, so it's a little frustrating right now. But I've just got to get out here and just keep working at it.

Q. Can you comment a little bit about the difference in mental state between when you were really playing good before all this happened to where it is now? Do you get a sense of what it feels like mentally, what the difference is?

JB HOLMES: I haven't really played enough to, I guess, really make that - right now I still feel like it's the same as it is when I was playing good. I'm coming out here to win. I'm coming out here to play well, and that's my goal and that's my mental state. I'm still trying to hit those shots and be in the hunt. Last week I just didn't swing well enough to give myself that chance.

Q. So on the range it's about the same as what it was, but it's just taking it to the course?

JB HOLMES: No, I mean, I'm hitting it about the same as I do on the range. I just really haven't had enough time to be able to groove my swing and just get it back yet.

Q. Kyle Stanley is going to be here in about a half-hour, and I'm wondering if you had any sort of comparable thing happen to you any time in your golf career, how you handled it or what advice you would give him as somebody who's been on the Tour a little longer than he has.

JB HOLMES: I mean, that's a tough situation in general. Almost everybody has had something similar or something like that happen where it's came down to the last hole and they just haven't performed the way they're capable of. You know, it's difficult, and it's tough to swallow, and it definitely bothers you. But you've got to look at what you did to even get yourself in that position. The guy played better than anybody all week, way better than anybody, so he's got to look at that as a positive and definitely knows that he can do it because he was right there. You've just got to look at the positives as much as you can. Obviously not being able to close it out at the end, that's kind of what everybody is going to talk about, but he should really focus on how well he played and what he did to get himself even in that position.

Q. Does time allow you to sort of focus on the positives?

JB HOLMES: Yeah, right after, it's really hard to even have - you really don't want anybody to talk to you, you just want to go be by yourself for a little bit. But like I say, it's a very difficult situation. He's a great player. He'll bounce back. But you know, just - if you tell him to focus on the positive right now, he's probably going to shake his head because he's very disappointed, but he'll get to that point. It's still very fresh in his mind, so it's tough to expect somebody to just go straight there right after it happens. But I'm sure he's got good people around him, and he's just got to focus on the good parts and not the last hole.

Q. You mentioned speed and swing speed as being an issue a couple of times. What aspect of what you went through affects that? Is it just time off your feet? Is there some aftereffect?

JB HOLMES: When they went into the neck muscles I couldn't really turn my neck that much, so that's - when you turn your shoulders you're not turning your head, but when you rotate your shoulders around, it's just like turning your head. It took a while to really get that back, and just sitting on your butt for four months you lose some muscle, and just got to get back in the swing of things. It'll come back, it's just going to take a little bit.

Q. How close are you to that?

JB HOLMES: I think I averaged around 120 swing speed last year, and I could get it up to 125 if I wanted to, and right now I'm probably averaging 115 and I can get up to 118. So it's not way off, but that's enough to affect the yardages on some irons and stuff like that.

Q. But on this course do you need it to be 100 percent to win?

JB HOLMES: No. I wouldn't have came out here if I didn't think I could play. I'm hitting it 300 yards or more. The distances - I can hit it far enough to compete out here. If I didn't think I could do that I wouldn't have came out. It's just not as far as I'm used to.

MODERATOR: J.B. welcome back. We appreciate your time, and best of luck this week.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.