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J.B. Holmes finishes alone in third in two-man British Open

US golfer J.B. Holmes watches his drive from

US golfer J.B. Holmes watches his drive from the 6th tee during his final round on day four of the 2016 British Open Golf Championship at Royal Troon in Scotland on July 17, 2016. Credit: US golfer J.B. Holmes watches his drive from the 6th tee during his final round on day four of the 2016 British Open Golf Championship at Royal Troon in Scotland on July 17, 2016.

TROON, Scotland — J.B. Holmes finished third in a two-man race.

They say anything can happen in golf, that a couple of bogeys by one player and a couple of birdies by another can erase a lead in a few holes. But when Holmes began the final round of the British Open on Sunday, eight shots behind eventual winner Henrik Stenson and seven back of runner-up Phil Mickelson, he wasn’t thinking of a championship.

“I felt the best position I could get was third,” said Holmes, who shot a 2-under-par 69 in the final round for a 278 total — 14 shots behind Stenson, 11 behind Mickelson.

“Played well and ended up doing that,” he said. “Yeah. Those guys were playing a different golf course from everybody else.”

Holmes, 34, had brain surgery in September 2011 to relieve symptoms of Chiari malformations, which caused vertigo-like dizziness. He returned to playing golf in January 2012 and since has won two tournaments, including the 2015 Houston Open in a playoff over Jordan Spieth and Johnson Wagner.

He shot 80 in the first round of last week’s Scottish Open at Castle Start. “Thankfully, I used all bad luck up then,” he said. In the Open, he shot 70-70-69-69.

“It was great this week,” said Holmes, who lives in Kentucky. “If the weather wasn’t quite so unpredictable, it would make it a lot easier to like. But yeah, it’s a unique test.”

Steve Stricker, 49, was fourth, a stroke behind Holmes. His tournament came apart Friday when he made a quadruple-bogey 8 on the 15th hole in the wind and rain and shot 75 after a first-round 67. But he closed 68-69 for a 279.

“All in all,” Stricker said, “I played great all week. There was a lot on the line for me today — FedEx Cup points, world ranking points. If you would have told me heading into the week I’d have a legitimate chance to finish in the top 10, I don’t know if I would have believed you. So it was good.”

Rory McIlroy was looking for something better than a tie for fifth, but after a third-round 73, he wasn’t going to do much better. Sunday, he shot 67 to share fifth at 280 with Sergio Garcia (69) and Tyrrell Hatton (68).

“I knew I needed something like this to get myself up the leader board,” said McIlroy, who won the Open two years ago at Royal Liverpool.

“If I could take anything back, it probably would be the front nine [Saturday],” in which he shot 1-over 37 on the downwind holes. “I didn’t get off to the greatest of starts. But with what I sort of had to play in” — he got the worst of the weather — “there’s no way I would have gotten the scores those guys at the top were on.”

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