CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — If J.B. Holmes ever needs a reminder of just how far he’s come, he only has to look in his closet.
That’s where he keeps part of his skull.
It’s a not-so-subtle reminder of the long, remarkable journey Holmes has endured – one that included recovery from two brain surgeries and culminated Sunday with a one-shot victory over Jim Furyk in the Wells Fargo Championship.
Holmes shot a 1-under 71 to finish at 14-under 274 and take home the $1.24 million prize – the largest single paycheck of his career.
It’s Holmes’ first victory since he had two brain surgeries in 2011, as well as operations for a broken ankle and an issue with tennis elbow.
Holmes was diagnosed with structural defects in the cerebellum known as Chiara malformations, and he had twice had surgery to fix the problem. The first was to remove a piece of his skull that was pressing on his spinal cord and another was due to an allergic reaction to the adhesive on the titanium plate at the base of his skull.
“It was causing me to be dizzy and vertigo-like symptoms and really bad headaches,” Holmes said.
Through it all, Holmes never doubted he’d return to the PGA Tour and find success.
“I never let myself go there,” Holmes said.
Holmes’ two other wins came at the Phoenix Open, in 2006 and 2008.
Holmes didn’t make it easy on himself down the stretch.
He held a two-shot lead heading into the 18th hole after a bogey at No. 16.
On the final hole he took out his driver, but slapped his tee shot into the woods on the right side of the fairway. It was the first time all week he hadn’t found the fairway on the closing hole. He reached the green in three and ran a 43-foot par putt past the hole, leaving him with a 3-foot knee-knocker to seal the victory.
Holmes took awhile lining up the putt, saying it was more about enjoying the moment than battling nerves.
Furyk, who won here in 2006, made a run up the leaderboard with a 7-under 65 Sunday and waited in the clubhouse for the better part of two hours for Holmes and playing partner Martin Flores to finish.
Flores had an eagle at No. 10, but a bogey on the 13th proved costly and he couldn’t make up enough ground to challenge. He missed a 31-foot bogey putt on the final hole for third place, his best career finish.
Jason Bohn had the best opportunity to catch Holmes but buckled under pressure.
When a tournament official gave him a warning for slow play on his second shot on the 16th hole, Bohn said he “didn’t control his emotions” and let it get in his head on the next tee box.
He double bogeyed the 17th after rushing his tee shot, putting a 4-iron into the water.
“I didn’t feel comfortable with the wind starting to gust up a little bit, and I went ahead and hit it anyhow in a situation that I probably would have backed off in,” said Bohn, who finished fourth. “So I’m more disappointed in myself and the way that I handled that than the golf shots that I hit.”
Phil Mickelson’s chances ended much earlier.
One day after shooting a 9-under par 63 to pull within two shots of Holmes, Mickelson couldn’t get any momentum going early in his round and finished with a 4-over 76 and out of the top 10.
“I had two great rounds and two pathetic rounds,” Mickelson said.
Mickelson plans to spend the early part of this week working with his coach on putting in preparation for The Players Championship.
Rory McIlroy, who shot 65 on Saturday, finished tied for eighth at 8-under after a 69 on Sunday, but was never in contention.
McIlroy has five top-10 finishes this year but no victories.
“I’m in the top 10 every week and it is fine, it’s whatever. But it’s not wins,” McIlroy said after shooting a 2-under 70 to finish six shots behind Holmes.
The 32-year-old Holmes, one of the longest hitters on the PGA Tour, secured a spot in the PGA Championship this summer in his native Kentucky and earned full exemption on the PGA Tour through the 2015-16 season.
“It’s been a long journey for me,” Holmes said. “I’ve had some ups and downs. It’s a great feeling to be out there and to get one done.”
AP Golf Writer Doug Ferguson contributed to this report.