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Saturday, Oct 19, 2019

‘Surgical’ par-5 strikes put JB Holmes in the lead

Even as Tiger Woods came up with an over-par score, JB Holmes, who overcame a serious medical condition, was leader after Day 1 of the World Challenge

other-sports Updated: Dec 02, 2016 23:46 IST
Robin Bose
Robin Bose
Hindustan Times
Tiger Woods watches his tee shot on the first hole during the second round at the Hero World Challenge golf tournament.
Tiger Woods watches his tee shot on the first hole during the second round at the Hero World Challenge golf tournament. (AP)

The past has taught JB Holmes to stay appreciative of the present. More so, if it’s linked to well being. Tiger Woods may have slipped on the opening day of the Hero World Challenge despite shooting five birdies, but that’s incidental for Holmes. “Coming out and playing pretty good” after the long layoff mattered more to the 34-year-old.

Like Tiger, Holmes has experienced the pangs of separation from golf and the uncertainty if he would return. More than five years have passed since a spate of surgeries kept him away, but he’s gone on to win two more times on the PGA Tour, and the past hasn’t blurred.

At eight-under 64, the burly golfer holds a one-shot lead, and though these are early days at the Championship Golf Course, Thursday’s round reflected the form he’s in. Six top-six finishes this season, including two at The Masters and Open Championship, Holmes’ well-rounded play --- the driver, irons and putter working to satisfaction, he’s in a state of contentment.

However, those days on the hospital bed, hopelessness gnawing at him, aren’t remembered during competition only. Even when home in Orlando, the closet is rarely opened, but that the past is carefully preserved is immensely comforting.

In summer of 2011, Holmes was diagnosed with Chiari Malformation, a structural defect in the cerebellum, which caused headache and vertigo. It was mistaken initially as an ear or sinus infection, but a near fall and some poor finishes got him to take note.

Surgery was carried out but complications led to another procedure. There was relief but the family was left horrified when Holmes asked the surgeon if he could take home the piece of the skull that had been removed.

Some attributed it to incoherent thinking, but Holmes was adamant on taking the “bit of him” home. There was no way he could let it go, that piece of bone told the tale of his suffering.

Holmes returned to competitive golf in early 2012 with the hope that the past had been firmly put behind. Having won in 2006 and 2008, there was no question on his ability to regain playing rights.

He was getting accustomed to being on Tour again when surgeries to set an ankle and elbow right kept him away for another lengthy phase. Frustration abounded but the top finish at the Wells Fargo Championship in 2014 washed the misgivings away.

Not one to seek acknowledgement for what he’s been through, that “bit of him” at home is enough, Holmes’ grit was recognised. He was feted with the Ben Hogan award this year for playing on despite a physical handicap.

First Published: Dec 02, 2016 23:46 IST

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