Through brain surgery, Holmes' finish at Phoenix Open a feat unto itself - East Valley Tribune: Sports

Through brain surgery, Holmes' finish at Phoenix Open a feat unto itself

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Posted: Sunday, February 5, 2012 5:38 pm | Updated: 5:47 pm, Sun Feb 5, 2012.

It took brain surgery, but J.B. Holmes no longer is dizzy. The headaches are gone and so is his fuzzy vision.

And now his golf game is starting to come back. After a scary 2011 when Holmes wasn't sure what his future would be, on and off the golf course, he is back to work and, surprisingly to some, playing well. Holmes, a two-time Waste Management Phoenix Open Champion, finished the 72-hole tournament at 3-under-par 213 on Sunday to finish tied for 45th place. This was Holmes second start of the season as he started the year last week at Torrey Pines in San Diego.

Last May, Holmes began having severe headaches, problems with balance and suffered from vertigo. It made playing golf extraordinarily difficult for him as he couldn't hit golf shots without being somewhat impaired. After several medical opinions, doctors decided Holmes had Chiari malformations or structural defects of the cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls balance. Added pressure on his brain made it virtually impossible for Holmes to play golf.

So he didn't play golf after the PGA Championship in 2011, had surgery and set goals for when he would return in 2012. Holmes began hitting balls at home in Kentucky in January and played his first tournament of the year in San Diego without a lot of success. It is a slow recovery for Holmes, but he'll take any kind of progress after brain surgery.

"You can't go out there and hit as many balls as you want to," Holmes said. "Your body can't take it and you don't want to overdo it, but you still want to go out and practice. I'm playing a lot more than I was at home."

His rounds at the TPC of Scottsdale were OK by his standards with rounds of 71, 70, 71 and 68 on Sunday.

"You have to take small steps," Holmes said. "I was real close to playing pretty good this week. It got a lot better than last week. I wanted to come out here and play good right off the bat."

The results of the surgery have been fine, but Holmes is suffering from a stiff neck and shoulder. He's hoping both go away as he gets more comfortable swing the golf club. He's also trying to figure out how far he hits the golf ball again. The long-hitting Holmes had lost a lot of club-head speed following the surgery and he's had to re-learn how far he hits each golf club.

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