DORAL, Fla. – If the Blue Monster has turned into a bomber’s paradise since Gil Hanse’s handiwork transformed the layout before last year’s WGC-Cadillac Championship, J.B. Holmes has found a new home.
The long-hitting Holmes overpowered a golf course that is generally considered a brute with an opening 62, setting a course record for the redesigned layout and forging a four-stroke lead.
Holmes turned in 32 before he broke into a sprint, playing his first three holes of the inward loop in 4 under par and completing his round without a bogey, which might be the most impressive of his accomplishments on Day 1 at Doral.
“I played great today but it is a very difficult golf course, and today a lot of tees were up,” said Holmes, who finished first in driving distance on Thursday with a 320-yard average. “They could definitely put the tees back and make it play a lot harder, and it's already playing hard.”
Holmes leads Ryan Moore, who played Nos. 6 through 12 in 6 under par but stumbled at the end with a double-bogey-6. The three-time PGA Tour winner has been close this year, losing in a playoff to Jason Day last month at the Farmers Insurance Open and posting top-25 showings in his last two starts.
Still, that doesn’t explain his stellar play on a windswept day when just 20 players broke par.
“I thought 10 under was out there but I just don't think 11 was,” joked Holmes, who eagled the 12th hole after hitting 6-iron from 226 yards to a foot. “It's just a tough golf course, so if I go out and shoot even or 1 under tomorrow, that would be a good round. It's hard to back these days up.”
Holmes won for the first time in six years last season at the Wells Fargo Championship. He underwent brain surgery in 2011 and missed much of the 2013 season with a fractured left ankle.