What a miserable Sunday at the British Open for American J.B. Holmes. He was in third place after three rounds, having shot a 66, 68 and 69. But he slogged his way to an 87 with one birdie, six bogeys, four double bogeys and a triple bogey in the final round.
He dropped 64 spots down the leaderboard to finish tied for 67th — losing about $700,000 in the process.
Holmes is famously deliberate, often frustrating fans and fellow players with his glacial pre-shot routine. But Brooks Koepka, paired with him Sunday, cut him some slack.
“He had a rough day,” Koepka said. “But J.B. is a slow player. I know it’s difficult with the wind, but I didn’t think he was that bad today. I thought he was all right.”
That said, Koepka did voice what a lot of people surely feel.
“I’m ready to go most of the time,” he said. “That’s what I don’t understand when it’s your turn to hit, your glove is not on, then you start thinking about it, that’s where the problem lies. It’s not that he takes that long. He doesn’t do anything until his turn. That’s the frustrating part. But he’s not the only one that does it out here.”
Koepka shot a final-round 74 to finish in a tie for fourth with England’s Lee Westwood. Most golfers would be pleased with that. But Koepka’s standards are so high, especially in majors, that fourth place might feel like 40th to him. It didn’t help that he started bogey-bogey-bogey-bogey.
“I warmed up fine,” he said of his preparation on the range. “I probably hit four of the worst shots I’ve hit all week.”
He put a halt to that with an eagle on No. 5, but it wasn’t enough to put him into that rarefied air to which he’s accustomed. After all, he won the PGA Championship this year, and finished second at both the Masters and U.S. Open.
“I don’t see much positive out of it,” he said. “If you don’t play good you’re not going to win. So it’s very simple. It’s disappointing, yes. I didn’t play the way I wanted to. And I’ve got to live with that.”
American Tony Finau shot an even-par 71 to finish third, and was especially happy about the way he handled the difficult circumstances.
“I would say I probably played tougher conditions but I haven’t played better than I did today in those conditions,” he said.
“I was just happy with the way I hung in there. I knew winning the Championship was out of my grasp but I wanted to post as good of numbers as I could. Then just keep fighting until the end, and I was able to do that.”
Another major, another oh-so-close performance by Tommy Fleetwood, who has yet to win one.
“This week I turned up and just had a good feeling, carried through,” said Fleetwood, who finished second and fourth, respectively, in the 2017 and ‘18 U.S. Opens. “And, yeah, I’m going to look at this, I’m going to learn things, I can write things down on reflection, how I felt last night, this morning, on the golf course, what I could have done better, what I did do great and what I need to repeat next time.
“You can reflect all you want when you finish 30th or 40th, but it’s these kind of results that you look at and you know that you can find more in. Hopefully I’ll put myself in position again, numerous times, and hopefully I can make it up. And eventually, we have a long way now until the next major. It will be difficult to come down for a few days but you’ve got to get back on it and start again.”
Many happy returns
Although this was the first British Open outside of England or Scotland in 68 years, there’s a very good chance the major will be played in Northern Ireland — and probably Ireland — in the near future.
Wilma Erskine, outgoing secretary manager at Royal Portrush, said the course is in line to play host to three Opens, subject to the R&A — the tournament’s governing body — and the club being in agreement.
“I’ve heard the whispers as well that we could be back here as soon as five years from now,” said Graeme McDowell, who is from Portrush and won the U.S. Open in 2010. “But I think with the financial commitment that Portrush have made for this, for it to get the recognition and then get back here soon, to keep that Portrush train rolling, it would be huge. It would be huge. If we have to wait another 20 years, the icing might rub off between now and then. People might forget a little bit.
“Hopefully we can get back soon. It would be very, very special.”
State of mind
Two-time Open champion Padraig Harrington did a good job of summing up the importance of golf to the people all over the Emerald Isle.
“There’s a difference with golf events here in Ireland,” Harrington said. “You go to a golf event around the world, you leave the golf course and go a mile down the road, you pull into a gas station, and they don’t know the event is on.
“Here, you go down the road a mile, two miles, 10 miles, you pull into a gas station, and you’re likely to have someone trying to get tickets from you. Everybody’s involved, everybody’s interested, everybody’s talking about it.”