Sports

Holmes fires up fans

LOUISVILLE — Kentuckian J.B. Holmes gave golf fans a breathtaking preview of what he'll bring to the 37th Ryder Cup, during a practice round Tuesday.

Holmes, one of the longest hitters in golf, drove the green on the 13th hole, a 338-yard downhill par-4.

Oh, yes: The hole features an island green, surrounded by huge boulders and a watery grave for errant Titleists.

"J.B. flew it right on the green, and the crowd went absolutely crazy," said an admiring U.S. captain, Paul Azinger.

"That was just kind of a dose of what we could be in for, and I look forward to it."

Jim Furyk, who was playing with Holmes, Kenny Perry and Boo Weekley, was impressed by Holmes' rocket shot.

"It leaves the club quick," Furyk said. "I was amazed."

Holmes said he "was just having fun with the crowd. They wanted me to hit driver, and it ended up on the green."

Holmes and Perry were treated like conquering heroes as they toured Valhalla.

"Half of Kentucky was following us and pulling for those two," Furyk said.

Holmes was thrilled.

"It felt amazing," he said. "I mean, what else would you expect? You've got thousands of people cheering for you. It feels awesome."

It was just that kind of crowd response that played into Azinger's selection of Holmes as a wild-card pick.

But Holmes played his way onto the team, too.

He got Azinger's attention by winning the FBR Open in early February, and by almost beating Tiger Woods in the Accenture match-play competition a few weeks later. Holmes really sold himself in August, though, when he led the PGA Championship after three rounds on a very difficult Oakland Hills course.

The fact that Holmes began the last round with a triple bogey and wound up shooting an 81 didn't affect Azinger's thinking. The U.S. captain said Holmes "was a pretty obvious pick."

Justin Leonard, a Ryder Cup veteran, said Holmes will bring a fearless attitude to the American team.

"As Azinger said, (Holmes) has the courage of a burglar. He's not going to back down from anything," Leonard said.

"He has the ability to just absolutely overpower a golf course. So with that kind of exciting player playing in front of his home fans, it's going to be pretty electrifying."

Anthony Kim played college golf against Holmes, and they were Walker Cup teammates. He knows Holmes' strength.

"I don't know anybody in professional golf that hits it farther," Kim said. "I know Bubba Watson is the longest guy on our tour (statistically), but I think, if J.B. wanted to, he could be.

"Playing with him at the AT&T this year, he had a drive that went about 380 in the air. The ball didn't seem like it was ever going to come back."

Europe's Padraig Harrington, who won the British Open and PGA titles this summer, told USA Today that Holmes is the one U.S. player with a decided edge when it comes to power.

"J.B. is substantially longer off the tee than everyone else," Harrington said.

Holmes hopes he can use his game to help the United States win back the Ryder Cup. But he knows this is a team effort.

"I've never played in the Ryder Cup, but I look around the room at our guys, and I'm like, wow, we've got a really good team here. I like our team. We're playing well and I think we've got a chance."

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