Holmes rallies to edge Thomas in Genesis Open endurance test

LOS ANGELES (AFP) – J B Holmes erased a four-shot deficit to emerge from an endurance test at Riviera Country Club on Sunday with a one-stroke victory over Justin Thomas in the Genesis Open.

On a day that saw the leaders play 33-plus holes in the weather-disrupted event, Holmes fired a one-under par 70 in the final round for a 14-under total of 270 and his fifth US PGA Tour title — his first since the 2015 Houston Open.

“It’s a huge win,” said Holmes, who had just one top-10 finish in the 2018-19 season until this week.

Holmes and Thomas had traded the lead twice before Holmes went ahead for good at the 13th hole, draining a 12-foot par putt while Thomas needed four putts to close out a double-bogey.

“Two three-putts and a four-putt on my back nine,” Thomas said after signing for a four-over 75 for 271. “The third putt on 13, I could feel the wind coming and I got scared so I tried to hit it harder – and I did hit it harder and that’s why I missed it.”

Holmes was still one ahead when he drained an 11-footer to save par after finding a bunker at 16 – part of his march home with seven straight pars.

“He played great,” Thomas said. “But it’s always a bummer to hand him a tournament. I feel like I should have won that thing.”

JB Holmes poses with the trophy after winning the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club. – AFP

Thomas certainly seemed to have things well in hand when he finished a third-round 65, after returning to the course with the rest of the field to resume the round at 6.45am.

Holmes said the chaotic schedule that followed Thursday’s seven-hour rain delay made for a difficult week of 4 am wake-up calls and marathon spells on the course.

Then came on Sunday afternoon’s biting winds, conditions that Holmes said more than justified his deliberate pace of play.

“You play in 25-mile-an-hour gusty winds and see how fast you play,” he said. “You can’t just get up there and whack it when it’s blowing that hard.”

Adam Scott, who started the final round tied with Holmes, saw his challenge evaporate in the testing conditions as he carded a five-over 76.

South Korean Kim Si-woo closed with a five-under par 66 for third place on 272, one stroke in front of Australian Marc Leishman (68) and Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy (69).

Tournament host Tiger Woods, who made the cut with one shot to spare, vaulted into the top 15 with a third-round 65 that included two eagles – one on Saturday night and one on Sunday.

He was rolling with three birdies in his first seven holes of the final round – including holing out from a bunker at the par-three 16th – before fading down the stretch as the changeable weather brought a brief burst of rain and then cold, gusty winds.

“I got tired. I don’t know if I’m the only one, but I definitely felt it today – wind, cold,” admitted Woods, who had four bogeys in a six-hole stretch that ended with a three-putt at the fifth – where he missed from inside three feet.