Golf Tidbits: It's been a long, tough road for Holmes

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Updated: 5/06 8:06 am

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - After winning the Phoenix Open twice in a three-year span, J.B. Holmes was starting to make a name for himself on the PGA Tour.

Thanks in part to his second victory at the greatest show on turf, Holmes made his first Ryder Cup team, and looked destined to be a long-standing member of U.S. international teams.

That was all derailed when he began battling vertigo-like symptoms in the 2011 season. In his last three starts that year, he missed two cuts and had to withdraw from the PGA Championship.

Shortly thereafter, Holmes was on the operating table undergoing brain surgery. He was diagnosed with structural defects in his cerebellum, or Chiari malformations.

During the surgery, he had a quarter-sized piece of his skull removed.

He came back and played a full season on the PGA Tour in 2012, but managed only two top-10 finishes, both of which came before the Masters.

In March of last year, Holmes was roller-blading as part of his conditioning routine, but suffered an awkward fall in which he broke his left ankle. As he rehabbed that injury, Holmes decided it was time to go under the knife, again.

This time, Holmes was going to have his troublesome left elbow fixed. Why not? He wasn't fully ready to come back to the tour anyway.

Once the calendar changed to 2014, Holmes was ready to go. He waited until late January at the Farmers Insurance Open to make his debut. It has been a slow build to fully get back into game shape.

He had more finishes outside the top 50 -- five -- than he had inside the top 20 -- four. However, all four of those top-20 finishes came in his last five starts before the Wells Fargo Championship.

Entering the Wells Fargo, Holmes had shot par or better in 14 or his last 20 rounds, and that trend continued at Quail Hollow.

Holmes shot 2-under 70 in the opening round, then went 11-under par in the middle two rounds to take the lead entering the final round. Coming down the stretch, he led by two and made the finish interesting.

Jim Furyk sat two strokes back and had been in the clubhouse for nearly two hours. He started to pack his things while Holmes was on 18, but stopped when Holmes hit a poor chip shot.

Needing to get down in two putts for the win, Holmes did just that to close out a 1-under 71. The win was his third on the PGA Tour.

Among the biggest aspects of the victory for Holmes is that he now qualifies for all four majors. When he tees it up at Pinehurst for the U.S. Open next month, it will mark his first start in a major since that 2011 PGA Championship, which he had to withdraw from.

Next spring, he'll return to Augusta National for the Masters for the first time since 2008. He also moved himself into contention for a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Holmes did go 2-0-1 as a captains pick at the 2008 Ryder Cup, and not many Americans in line for this year's team have winning records.

Those things are far off at this point, but for Holmes to even be in that conversation is a huge victory by itself.

Now that he is healthy, we are seeing what kind of player Holmes once was, and can be again.

A word of warning, though. After Holmes' other two wins, which were in February 2006 and February 2008, he posted only two more top-10 finishes in those seasons and both were in '08.

The way Holmes is playing now, it isn't hard to see him bucking that trend the rest of this season.

LPGA'S BEST AMERICANS TOO HOT, TOO SOON?

Whether it is the Solheim Cup, Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup, each team's captain wants her players to be playing their best heading into that event.

Three potential U.S. Solheim Cup team members are off to scorching starts this year on the LPGA Tour.

Stacy Lewis just earned her first win this past weekend in Texas, and that was her eighth top-10 finish in nine starts. Michelle Wie also has a win and six top-10s in nine events, while team stalwart Cristie Kerr has six top-10s in eight tournaments.

Is it too much too soon? The Solheim Cup won't be played for another 16 months. Captain Juli Inkster has to be happy to see how well some of her potential team members are playing right now.

The Americans suffered a crushing defeat last year at the Solheim Cup, and the players from that team, and those hoping to make the 2015 squad, want to make sure what happened last year doesn't happen again.

Five of the 10 winners this year on the LPGA Tour have been Americans, while two wins were by a European, Anna Nordqvist.

With many of the tour's top players hailing from Asia, having Americans winning half of the tour's events is a great start for the team.

Let's just hope they can keep the momentum going.

MINI-TIDBITS

- Don't try to blame John Daly for slow play problems, whatever tour he may be playing on. Daly was the first out in the final round of the Web.com event last weekend, and played as a single. Daly cruised around in 2 hours, 21 minutes. There are twosomes that don't play nine holes that fast at some tournaments.

- From the where-are-they-now category, we bring you the curious case of Anthony Kim. According to a Golf Channel report last week, Kim rarely plays golf anymore. Kim had three PGA Tour wins by the age of 25, but he hasn't been seen on tour since 2012. The 28-year-old battled wrist, forearm and elbow injuries before tearing his Achilles. We might never know how great he could have been had he stayed healthy.

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