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Saturday’s Wells Fargo leader J.B. Holmes takes unusually careful shot preparations, has had a hard road

J.B. Holmes, the leader of the Wells Fargo Championship after Saturday’s third round, takes a particularly long time in his pre-swing approach.

On the putting green, he’s methodical in getting his line. He holds his putter’s grip in his left hand, the putter at a 55-degree angle and his right hand on the putter’s face. He begins – then stops – then begins again toward his ball before stroking.

It’s a long routine, but he’s trying to put into words what’s going on, he said. Holmes is thankful not only to be the leader at 13-under at Quail Hollow Club, but to just be on the course in the first place.

In 2011, Holmes had brain surgery twice. Diagnosed with structural defects in his cerebellum, Holmes had a piece of his skull removed after having developed vertigo symptoms, and another a month later due to an allergic reaction to the titanium plate in his head.

He came back in 2012, but in March 2013 Holmes broke his left ankle while rollerblading. He had elbow surgery on his left arm because it was sore, too.

Holmes hasn’t finished in the top three of a tournament since 2010, and he hasn’t won a tournament since the FBR Open in 2008.

“It’s the longest break I’ve had from golf and tournament play I’ve had probably in my life,” said Holmes of 2013. “So I tried to look at it more of that instead of – it was a broken ankle, it was tennis elbow, so it wasn’t quite as big as the brain surgery thing. So I wasn’t thinking I wasn’t ever coming back, but I just enjoyed the time off and tried to get better where I could.”

There’s no golfer who’s hit the ball farther off the tee this week than Holmes. He’s first in average driving distance at 329.7 yards. His 352-yard drive on the par-5 15th helped him card a birdie and move to 12-under.

But it took nearly a year to get his swing back to full speed. Holmes believed he had his speed back months ago, but his coach told him it didn’t return until a few weeks ago, Holmes said.

Never did Holmes consider giving it up, even in 2013 when he took the year off and spent more time with family and friends vacationing. Golf is fun, he said.

“I did miss it, but, you know, I definitely enjoyed my time off, too,” Holmes said. “The goal is anyway, like Tiger (Woods) and all those guys, play well enough you only have to play 14 or 15 times a year.”

Last year Holmes, who went to the University of Kentucky, was at the Kentucky Derby with a broken ankle instead of being at Quail Hollow Club.

He didn’t anticipate watching this year’s Derby, opting instead to go to the range after meeting with the media. Holmes said Harry’s Holiday was his pick because he liked the name and not because he knew anything about the horse.

Harry’s Holiday didn’t place in the top three, but the horse had 40-1 odds anyway.

After Holmes endured two brain surgeries, ankle and elbow surgery, a win Sunday would be considered beating the odds.

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