BARRINGTON — Paired in the final group with Matt Kuchar and Zach Johnson, defending champion J.B. Holmes (and playing partner Ricky Barnes) got a bird's eye view of the overall leaders during the final round of the CVS Caremark Charity Classic on Tuesday.
“It's almost boring watching those guys play,” Holmes said. “They hit it right down the fairway and get it on the green. They hit the wedges really good and they putted really good. They made a lot of 10- and 12-footers. They are great players and it was fun to watch.”
Following a record-tying 58 in the first round a day earlier, Kuchar and Johnson continued their stellar play yesterday afternoon in the two-day, 36-hole best-ball event at the Rhode Island Country Club, finishing with a course-record 24-under 118 to earn the $300,000 winners' check. Davis Love III and Morgan Pressel snared second with a 120. Barnes and Holmes tied for third with David Toms and Camilo Villegas with a 121.
“What we tried to do, not that it was any secret, but we had a lot of double opportunities,” Johnson said. “There was a lot of times where I didn't have to putt and vice versa. He made a 10-footer and I had six feet or vice versa. That's key. In a two-man team game, if you can get the ball in the fairway and give yourself opportunities like we did, it certainly helps.”
One of big turnarounds in the match occurred at the 14th hole where Johnson and Kuchar held a slim two-stroke advantage over Love and Pressel. Playing in the group ahead, Love and Pressel managed a par on the 390-yard hole. Kuchar and Johnson hit strong drives and even better approach shots on the hole. Johnson nailed his putt from 10 feet for a birdie and put the duo at 23 under and a three-stroke lead with four holes remaining.
“I made it and his was within three feet so he didn't even have a chance to putt it,” said the 2007 Masters Champion. “I assume he would have made it so we both birdied that hole.”
Johnson gave the two good friends some breathing room on the 145-yard 17th when he landed his drive less than five feet from the hole and made the birdie.
“That was big,” he said. “We both had really good opportunities on 16. I left mine short from 15 feet and he had a good putt. On the previous hole, I had about an eight-footer and I missed that one, too. I was upset and I had to kind of get one in there. We just ham and egged it.”
Barnes and Holmes, who trailed the leaders by a stroke after the first day, severely hurt their chances at a repeat win on the seventh, scoring a rare bogey on the 462-yard hole.
“You should never make a bogey in this format,” Holmes said. “This is the fourth round here, and that's the first one we made. That's a little disappointing for sure because I don't think either one of us made three bogeys all week in either round and to both bogey the same hole on the same day was a little frustrating.”
Villegas and Toms fired the low round of the afternoon with a 59 for their third-place finish with Barnes and Holmes. Hard-hitting Gary Woodland and tourney co-host Brad Faxon were fifth overall in the 10-team field with a 120.
Faxon marveled at the low scores that were posted the last two days.
“It's terrific,” he said. If someone were to tell me that we were going to shoot 20 under par, I would say this is going to be pretty good - 10 under par each day that should give you a good chance to win. This year, there wasn't a lot of wind, but there was some wind. I just think the guys are good.”
Woodland, who won the Transitions Championship in March. demonstrated his ball-striking ability off the tee on numerous holes, including the 13th where he blasted the ball 340 yards.
“I played well,” Faxon said. “[But] my partner, he's a star in the making. You better believe in this guy because he's going to win some tournaments.”
For Kuchar, the victory at CVS was extra special. It came on his 33rd birthday with his dad, Peter, caddying for him throughout the tournament.
“I'm not sure who it was a better present for, him or me,” Kuchar said. “We had a great time out there, memories that we'll share for a long time. We have done a lot of great things, a lot of cool things together. This is special for sure to win the CVS, along with Zach, and have my dad caddy for me. It's great fun.”
DIVOTS: Just like the previous 12 years, the real winners in the CVS Caremark Charity Classic were the many charities it supports. To date, more than $14 million dollars have been raised for such charities as the Make a Wish Foundation and the R.I. Special Olympics. “It just been a great three days,” said CVS president and CEO Larry Merlo, who took over the reigns from Tom Ryan in March. “From the weather to the quality of the professional golfers that we had from the three tours, PGA, LPGA and Champions Tour. The show that they put on the last two days with some outstanding golf. At the end of the day, who's really benefiting from this are the local charities that are really doing some terrific things here.”