Donald Trump was not thrilled after J.B. Holmes posted a sizzling first-round, 10-under-par 62 on his expensively redesigned Trump National Doral golf course earlier this week.
The PGA Tour is responsible for setting up each course for tournaments — moving tees up or back, for instance — and it’s no secret that after Holmes scorched the Blue Monster on Thursday, The Donald tried to exercise whatever influence he could to suggest a toughening of the course.
So one can only imagine how Trump felt after Dustin Johnson on Saturday took out a 7-iron and launched a shot that landed feet from the flag on No. 4, skipped once, then rolled.
Right into the hole.
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And a mere 24 minutes later, in the very next group, leader and new course nemesis Holmes unsheathed his 7-iron and hit a high arching shot that similarly skipped a few yards from the pin and found the hole as if guided by radar.
No. 4 ... 207 yards ... Par 3.
“We’ll have to move [the tee] back,” Trump said only half-jokingly on the Golf Channel’s telecast of the event.
For the uninitiated, that’s Trumpspeak for, “No. 4, you’re fired!”
No. 4 was the place to be Saturday for the fans who came out to Doral.
It was Holmes’s domination of that hole that helped him not only keep his lead but increase it to five strokes going into Sunday’s final round.
It was Johnson’s domination of that hole that helped him come from the middle of the pack to a second-place tie with Bubba Watson, five strokes behind Holmes with one round to go.
The No. 4 was the epicenter of things.
It’s where the crowds were loudest before they thinned out amid a steady rain.
It’s where the celebrating was fun to watch.
And, yes, it is where good fortune for Holmes and Johnson were matched by envy and even frustration for others.
Playing in the final group, just behind Johnson, Holmes knew something was happening at No. 4 ahead of him. He heard the crowd. He might have felt the electricity. He figured Johnson was working the hole.
“I saw somebody made it, and I figured it was Dustin,” Holmes said.
It was Johnson doing the improbable. Although he said he has made holes-in-one at Doral before and 10 overall, Johnson wasn’t necessarily expecting one when he took his cut.
“Actually, I wasn’t even ready — I pushed it just a hair right,” Johnson said. “It was still a really good shot obviously, and I got lucky it went in. I wasn’t aiming right at the flag. I was aiming just a fraction left of it and it rolled right in.”
Taking Dead aim
Then Holmes went to work.
“I was aiming right at it,” Holmes said of the flag. “I was planning on the wind moving it and thought if I hit a perfect shot — I usually hit a bit of a cut — it would stay straight and it did. So one of the rare times you get a hole-in-one where you actually hit it just like you want.”
Two different strategies on No. 4.
The same wonderful result.
Holmes saw his feat and went into a fist-pumping celebration that was contagious. Fans high-fived each other. Hole marshals, men in their late 50s or early 60s, jumped around like boys.
And then Holmes started fist-bumping the marshals and fans alike.
The celebration was borderline raucous. It was almost ungolflike. It was wonderful.
But that fun and emotion required the leader to then take a moment between the hole and the next tee to collect himself.
“You have to definitely reset,” Holmes said. “Your body has got so much energy and is jacked up. I mean, luckily you have the entire hole to calm down a little bit, but you’ve definitely got to reset your mind and try to forget about it and go to the next hole.”
A tough hole
Bill Haas shot a 7-under 65 this day. It was the best round turned in by any of these pros. But one hole gave him a fit.
Yes, No. 4.
“One bogey on No. 4,” Haas said. “I made double there the first day. So those bunkers were looking pretty good to me, and I hit it in the bunkers.
“I hit a nice bunker shot about six feet and just missed the putt.”
That miss is effectively what separated Haas from a fourth-place tie to start Sunday’s play.
And play on No. 4 — more accurately his inability to deliver the spectacular — helped to keep Rory McIlroy mired in 12th place and a long shot to contend in the final round
Did the pin placement on No. 4 look like it would give up two holes-in-one, McIlroy was asked?
“No,” said the world’s top ranked player. “Definitely not, especially the way the wind blows, because the wind was sort of hard off to the right. You’re going to have to play a pretty gutsy shot to start it right at that pin.”
Well, Johnson and Holmes did it ...
“No way,” McIlroy said with a laugh. “That’s why I’m not leading the tournament.”