Call J.B. Holmes the leaderboard leader and leading prophet of the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship going into Saturday’s third round.
After Holmes shot down Trump National Doral’s Blue Monster with a record 10-under-par 62 Thursday, he insisted the course’s degree of difficulty meant he would be happy with a 1-under result for Friday’s second round. That’s where Holmes stood Friday before a double bogey on the unforgiving, fire and brimstone par-4 18th left him with a 1-over 73 for the day and 9-under 135 for the tournament.
Holmes remained two shots up on Ryan Moore, who ended the day in the same place he began it — in second but two shots closer after a 1-under 71 gave him a two-day total of 137.
Three shots back at 6-under 138 is Adam Scott after a 4-under 68 rocketed him to as high as second at one point Friday. In a Saturday moving-day position at 4-under 140 are Bubba Watson and Henrik Stenson, two thirds of the world Nos. 1-2-3 grouping. The third member, Rory McIlroy, fired a 2-under 70 (and a golf club into the water) to go to 1-under 143.
Nobody got closer to Holmes all day than the closing two-shot margin, and Holmes never was worse than 9-under even though he found the water on Nos. 1, 3, 12 and 18. Three of those four water balls turned into bogeys — he saved par on the par-5 12th — and he pushed a 6-foot par putt well wide on the par-3 No. 9.
“I hit a lot of great shots [Friday],” Holmes said. “I didn’t make as many putts. I missed maybe two or three swings [Thursday], and they ended up being OK and missed two or three swings [Friday], and they went in the water.”
If Holmes called for a witness to back up his testimony, Moore could provide it. The way he and Holmes were playing, he opined, the course didn’t matter. Scott concurred.
“He might have had had the round of his life and certainly the round of the year this year [Thursday],” Scott said. “I don’t know if there’s going to be better than that, anyway. You never know. Someone will probably because I said that now.
“It was a phenomenal round, but you’ve got to take advantage of those days when they come,” he continued. “For me, sitting eight shots back after a pretty good round myself [Thursday], I just have to hope he’s not going to do it again and I can slowly pick away at those eight shots over the next few days.”
Before the redesign, wind was the Blue Monster’s dentures — without it, toothless. Friday’s low winds gave the course a chance to show it’s now a shark with many rows of teeth, one of which Friday seemed to be pin placements.
“[Friday], I think this was how this golf course plays,” Moore said. “It’s just a really difficult golf course. The pins were definitely less accessible [Friday]. I know there were four or five of them that I, honestly, with even 8-irons and 9-irons, was hitting it to 35 feet and was just fine being 35 feet away from them.
“There were definitely some tough pins out there but, you know, just a firm, fast golf course with a lot of trouble.”
Ask Charley Hoffman. He birdied five of the seven holes from the par- 5 No. 12 to No. 18, the only player in even or better after two rounds to birdie No. 18. As circumstances bunched Hoffman’s threesome right behind Holmes’, he closed to two shots back of Holmes as he began the par- 3 227-yard No. 4.
Hoffman’s first tee shot went into the water. His second tee shot found the front bunker. He fired a Sputnik out of there, over the green, onto the rear slope. He sailed back onto the green, but about 30 feet beyond the hole.
Hoffman two-putted from there to finish a quadruple-bogey 8 immolation that sent his day spiraling down to a 2-over 74 and an even-par 144 overall finish.
“I’ve got a two-shot lead,” Holmes said. “Not too bad. If you had told me that the beginning of the week, I would have a two-shot lead after two rounds, I would’ve said, ‘All right, sounds good.’”
Hole of the day
Sure, a lot of holes on the Blue Monster beckon balls to a watery demise. So, what was so special Friday about No. 8 and its beautiful ball-gobbling lake, complete with a fountain? Simple. The hole not only collected its fair share of balls but also claimed a golf club. That occurred when Rory McIlroy fired an approach toward the green that ended up taking a bath. And before you could say, “I’m really mad,” McIlroy hurled his 3-iron into the lake.
Shot of the day
With two rounds left in this tournament, Sergio Garcia is battling to stay in contention. His second shot on the par-5 10th hole kept him in lurking mode with a 3-under-par 69 Friday that put him at 1-under for the tournament, eight strokes back of leader J.B. Holmes. After a 309-yard drive, Garcia launched a 285-yard second shot to eight feet from the pin and made the putt for eagle.
Player of the day
Bubba Watson started the day with a bogey followed by six consecutive pars. Snooze. But Watson has a way of waking his followers up. In the next three holes he recorded two eagles. On No. 8, a 549-yard par-5, he hit a 302-yard drive followed by an approach of 225 yards that left him with a two-foot putt that he sank. On 10, another par-5, Bubba launched a 343-yard drive and then hit into a greenside bunker. He blasted out and into the hole a second eagle.
Bill Van Smith