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.”