Elbow surgery, not rollerblading, more to blame for J.B. Holmes' long layoff from PGA Tour

J.B. Holmes hit a high pitch to the ninth green on the North Course during the second round at Torrey Pines.
J.B. Holmes hit a high pitch to the ninth green on the North Course during the second round at Torrey Pines. AP

J.B. Holmes made another return from surgery at Torrey Pines in San Diego last weekend, this time with far less fanfare. Then again, a combination of tennis elbow and a broken ankle doesn't sound nearly as bad as brain surgery.

The former University of Kentucky star had not played in nearly a year before finishing tied for 23rd, and he is finally feeling as healthy as he has been in four years.

While his rollerblading accident injury received a lot of publicity, Holmes said his elbow issues started when he tried to return to playing after brain surgery in 2011.

He said he had been dealing with vertigo symptoms that year when he eventually was diagnosed with structural defects in the cerebellum known as Chiari malformations. He had surgery twice, once to remove a piece of his skull, another because of an allergic reaction to the adhesive on the titanium plate at the base of his skull.

He was trying to get ready for the Shark Shootout at the end of 2011 when he started hitting balls — too many, too hard, too soon.

"I pushed it too hard that day, and I've been fighting the tennis elbow ever since," Holmes said.

The blessing in disguise might have come last March when he was on rollerblades as part of his fitness routine and broke his left ankle after an awkward fall. Holmes wasn't sure he could have played anyway, because his arm was so sore. While recovering from the ankle, he figured he should take care of his elbow.

"The ankle was not that big of a deal," Holmes said. "I had surgery on my arm. It was more getting past that."

Still, don't expect Holmes to go rollerblading again any time soon.

"(The rollerblades) are probably somewhere," he said Tuesday. "I'll probably give them to somebody."

This weekend he is playing in the Phoenix Open, where he won as a rookie fresh out of Q-school in 2006. Holmes said he is at 95 percent strength.

"I feel healthy," he said. "(I'm) ready to get a full year in of being healthy, for sure."

He is playing this year on a major medical exemption this season and will have 19 events to earn $580,299 to keep his PGA status.

His solid finish at Torrey Pines — worth $54,290 — gave him a good start.