J.B. Holmes claimed his first title in four years with a one shot victory over Justin Thomas at the weather affected Genesis Open
J.B. Holmes came out on top of the all-Kentucky final-day battle between himself and Justin Thomas, overturning a four-shot deficit with a one-under 70 to end the tournament at 14-under-par.
The 36-year-old credited his putting in the windy conditions at Riviera for leading to his fifth PGA Tour victory, and first win on Tour since the 2015 Shell Houston Open.
“The wind was really blowing hard, it was hard putting,” said Holmes. “It was the way you want to win. You want to come down the end and be able to hit shots and make some key putts.”
It was perhaps surprising given that he'd been ranked 202nd in strokes gained putting heading to Riviera, yet led that statistic for the week - a stat Thomas had been leading until he self-destructed over the 13th and 14th holes on Sunday afternoon.
Players had had the best part of two rounds to complete on Sunday after play was affected by torrid weather conditions earlier in the week, and it was Thomas who looked to be in control after carding consecutive seven-under-par 65. It gave JT a four-shot lead heading in to the final round, but he failed to consolidate his position and J.B. took advantage as the afternoon weather conditions once again took a turn for the worse.
“It was great being able to go out and play with him and battle it out,” Holmes said. “He’s such a great player, so it was fun being out there, talking and just battling it out.”
Both players opened with a birdie on the opening hole of the final round, but it was Thomas who began to falter, missing the green with his approach shot on the second to drop his first shot of the day.
A birdie from J.B. on the second hole reduced the deficit at the top of the leaderboard to just two shots, and back-to-back bogeys from JT from the fourth completely erased his four-shot advantage from earlier in the day.
Thomas once more edged ahead as Holmes bogeyed the 7th, and they swapped the lead twice more between the 10th and 11th holes, with what appeared to be a costly three-putt bogey from J.B. on 11 to move one behind.
From there it was JT who had a nightmare on the greens, four-putting for double-bogey on the 13th and three-putting for bogey on 14 to end up two behind with four holes left to play.
A solitary birdie on the 16th for Thomas might well have been enough to put them back in a tie at the top if not for a crucial par save from Holmes from 11 feet, and the pair parred their way in for J.B. to come out on top of the Kentucky 1-2.
For Thomas, the loss was tough, not only because he felt he should have won, but because J.B. has been something of a mentor to him for more than 15 years.
“J.B. won, he played great,” Thomas said. “But it’s always a bummer to hand him a tournament. I feel like I should’ve won that thing.
“I think it was just more I really struggled putting in that wind out there,” he continued. “It’s something that I’ve needed to get better at, and it unfortunately just kind of showed a flaw in my game. I really didn’t play that bad.
”I’ve known J.B. since I was 7 or 8 or 9 years old. He was always so great to me. He would always pull me in the ropes in practice rounds in PGAs and stuff like that. I mean, that’s stuff I never forget.
“I just never thought, you know, 15 years later he would beat my ass at Riviera. That was a bummer.”
Si Woo Kim posted the best round of the afternoon, a five-under 67, to finish in solo third, while Rory McIlroy and Marc Leishman shared 4th spot.
Tiger Woods opened with three birdies in his first seven holes but dropped back to one-over for his round to move back to 15th.
“I got tired,” Woods said. “I don’t know if I’m the only one, but I definitely felt it today. Wind, cold. I was at 10 and I slipped four shots coming in. That’s the way it goes.”
Jordan Spieth, who began the final round inside the top 10, once again struggled during his final round, carding the worst round of the afternoon (a 10-over 81 that included a double, triple and quadruple) to end up T51.
WITB: J.B Holmes
Driver: Callaway Epic Flash Sub Zero (10.5 degrees), Fujikura Pro Tour Spec 83X shafts
3-wood: TaylorMade M2 HL (16.5 degrees), Fujikura Pro Tour Spec 93X shafts
Irons: Srixon Z U85 (3), Srixon Z-785 (4-PW), True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400 shafts
Wedges: Cleveland RTX 4 (50, 54, 60 degrees), True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400 shafts
Putter: Scotty Cameron 009M
Ball: Srixon Z-Star XV