DORAL, Fla. – Public service reminder: daylight saving time begins on Sunday. You know the drill – spring forward, fall back.
We offer this unsolicited advice only for the sake of J.B. Holmes, because at the rate the bomber is going at the WGC-Cadillac Championship it may be the only thing that could keep him from his first WGC win.
For three days Holmes has dismantled the Blue Monster like a lumberjack not a surgeon. At the new and, arguably, improved Doral his unique skill set is unrivaled.
Check the record, he’s first in driving distance (321-yard average), first in approach shot distance from the pin, first in strokes gained-tee to green and first in putts made distance.
At a golf course that rewards the bash mentality, Holmes is a free-swinging, right-handed slugger who has pounded his way to a five-stroke advantage.
“There are definitely a few holes where you can take advantage of it; if you can get the driver and get it to go over a few bunkers depending on what the wind is, definitely can be an advantage. It's a long golf course to start with,” said Holmes, who moved to 11 under following a third-round 70.
For the sake of competitive clarity, the supporting cast isn’t exactly playing for “B flight” honors just yet. Holmes is, after all, just 1 under in his last 36 holes after beginning the week with a 62 that sent Doral kingpin Donald Trump into damage control.
According to various sources, including Trump, The Don didn’t appreciate his south Florida jewel being manhandled by Holmes on Day 1 and let the PGA Tour know it.
Asked on Saturday’s "Morning Drive" if he had any impact on how the Tour set up his Blue Monster, Trump’s answer was telling.
“A lot. Well, let me say this, for the first day I had none. I disagreed, and I said to them that I disagreed that it was set up easy,” Trump said. “The second day I protested. I said, look, we built this as a world championship course and I don’t think the tees should be far forward. They don’t have to be all the way back, but they shouldn’t be forward. I think I probably had a psychological impact, I don’t know.”
But it wasn’t all carnage and collapses on Saturday on the Blue Monster. Within 30 minutes the Trump Invitational went from being a competitive horror flick to a highlight reel with Rickie Fowler holing a shot from the fairway at the par-4 11th followed by aces from Holmes and Dustin Johnson.
From 1990 to 2014 there had been no holes in one at Doral’s fourth hole. On Saturday, in less time than it takes to watch a sitcom, J.B. and DJ had two.
“When you’re atop the leaderboard and you can get a hole in one, that’s awesome,” said Holmes, who like Johnson teed off with a 7-iron at the par 3.
It also proved to be particularly good timing for Holmes, who opened his round for the second consecutive day with a bogey to drop back to 8 under and into a tie with Ryan Moore for the lead.
The ace, Holmes’ second in competition, gave him a cushion and after a bumpy stretch through the turn he birdied four consecutive holes starting at the 14th to distance himself from the field.
A bogey at the last only lessened the psychological impact on the rest of field slightly. Johnson (69) and Bubba Watson (70) will begin Sunday’s final 18 five strokes back, adding to the notion that more so than any other golf course on Tour Doral rewards power.
Moore is alone in third at 5 under, while world No. 1 Rory McIlroy remains mired in early-season rust after a third-round 72 left him 10 strokes out of the lead. Worst yet he still has one more trip up the eighth hole.
On Friday, the world No. 1 left a golf ball and a 3-iron in the lake adjacent to the par 5. Saturday was only slightly better, with McIlroy sending his tee shot into a tree and having to take a drop on his way to a bogey. For the week he’s played the hole 3-6-6. Feast, famine, famine.
Still, Holmes has never gone wire-to-wire on the Tour, a unique position that demands an aversion to protecting a lead.
“I think you have to learn how to [go wire-to-wire]. I think that's something that just sort of comes from experience,” said McIlroy, a man who speaks from experience.
But Holmes does have the luxury of opening his week with a course-record tying 62, which was 11.47 strokes better than the field average on Day 1. Asked if he would have taken three rounds at even par the rest of the way, Holmes didn’t hesitate, “Oh yeah,” he grinned.
“That round was huge,” Holmes said. “In my opinion it’s better than a 59 and it has shown in the scores, there are fewer guys under par now than on Thursday. There’s not many who have gotten close to it.”
Nor are there many who have much of a legitimate chance to catch Mr. 62 on Sunday at Doral barring some sort of disaster. Just remember J.B., spring forward, fall back.