Holmes destroys Blue Monster, Lowry impressed: "Ten under? You're joking"
JB Holmes

JB Holmes

Shane Lowry wondered if JB Holmes had walked in after 15 holes, or even walked on water from the ninth tee to the clubhouse.

Ian Poulter called it “the most unbelievable round I've seen.” From Trump Doral, a course so difficult that Henrik Stenson described it as “borderline stupid tough”, you could hear jaws hitting the ground from thousands of miles away as big-hitting Holmes holed a 20 footer for par at the short ninth for a 10 under par 62.

Shane Lowry was pleased as punch with his 71 worth a share of 13th place and yet he's a country mile off the pace. 

“What did he shoot?” Lowry asked.

Ten under, Shane. 

“Ten under? You're joking. That's the best score I've ever seen. Like, fair enough, if you hit it well off the tee, there's birdies out there, but not ten, not in my book, anyway.”

Laughing, Lowry asked: “Was he walking off after 15 or something? He must have hit his tee shot into nine and walked across on water.

“Listen, I'm happy with my start.  I'm up there and just hope he doesn't shoot another 10 under tomorrow.”

Holmes' remarkable round was good enough for a four-shot WGC-Cadillac Championship lead over the equally impressive Ryan Moore, who double bogeyed the deadly 18th and still shot 66 on a day when a steady breeze and firm greens helped the Blue Monster live up to its name.

There were 84 balls in the drink, only seven players broke 70 and just 21 in the 74-man field broke par. What might have happened if the tour hadn’t pushed up a few tees is anyone’s guess.

World No 1 Rory McIlroy was four over with six hole to play and made three birdies and eagle at the 17th to go with bogeys at the sixth and ninth, where he had to holed a 12 footer.

The Masters’ favourite shot 73, which turned out to be 0.4 shots better than the average score.

Of the three Irishmen in action, Lowry’s one under 71 was the best of the bunch as Graeme McDowell also shot 73, fading from two under after 11 hole as he bogeyed the third and double bogey the ninth by thinning his bunker shot from the trap left of the green into the water.

Lowry made more than his fair share of visits to sand on his Trump Doral - ten in all - as he made an eagle, two birdies and three bogeys in a  71 worth a share of 13th place.

“I think I was in more bunkers… it was like I was in the desert today,” Lowry said after closing with a bogey four at the ninth.  “Better than in the water.”

After opening with a birdie from six feet at the par-five 10th, Lowry failed to get uo and down from sand at the par-0three 13th and then three-putted the tough 14th for bogey. 

Sand saves at the 16th and 17th kept his head above water and after birdied the par-five first to get back to level, he made a good save at the second, missed a great chance at the seventh but then eagled the par-five eighth to get into the top 10 at two under before finishing with a bogey.

“I  got off to a shaky enough start, but I was quite pleased,” Lowry said. “Yesterday afternoon I just did a little bit of bunker play and seemed to work today. It kept me in it and I played nicely in the end.  

“I did miss a five footer on seven for birdie but I hit two great shots into the eighth and made eagle. You just don't want to hit it in the water and make double.  If you hit in the water you're making at least double.  It's a brutal hole. One under is a good start.”

Lowry will be hoping to reproduce shots like the approach he hit to the 549-yard eighth, where he had 233-yard to the flag and hit a perfect five wood into the wind to 10 feet. 

“Just hit a lovely shot,” he said. “Hit it straight on line to the left flag and hit it about ten feet, managed to hole it.  I was thinking going up there, if I can make birdie and par the last….”

Had McIlroy parred his last hole instead of making what turned out to be an excellent bogey, it would have been something of a mini miracle.

Still suffering the hangover of his missed cut in the Honda Classic, where he struggled to take his game from the range to the course, it was a similar tale in Miami.

Starting on the back nine, he found six birdies inches first eight holes and bogeyed the 11th and 17th before pulling his approach into water and running up a six at the 18th to turn in 40.

For those keeping count, he had eight nine-hole scores of 40 or more last year, when he won two majors.

The back nine was far better as he followed pars at the first three holes with birdies at the fourth (12 feet) and par-three fifth (five feet).

He also bogeyed the sixth and ninth but in between he made a birdie at the seventh from 18 feet and an eagle from 22 feet at the eighth.

All told, he was frustrated but reluctant to hit any panic buttons. After all, he’s still well in contention to win the event, despite Holmes’ start.

“It was really important,” he said of his late burst of scoring. “Just another day where I didn't get off to the greatest of starts.  Just couldn't really get anything going again.  

“Still felt a little bit tentative out there on the front nine, and then being four over after the turn, I was sort of like, there's not much else to lose, go ahead and try and be aggressive.  Hit some better shots on the way in, and it looks like something around even par isn't going to be that bad today.

“It was important to make some birdies on the way in and obviously that eagle helped, as well.  I’ll do a little bit of work this evening on the swing and then get at it tomorrow and hopefully get off to a better start.”

Winner of the Dubai Desert Classic just six weeks ago, McIlroy knows his game is there and it’s just a matter of time before he starts to put it all together again.

With no cut this week, he has another three rounds to iron out his problems.

“I don't feel like it's that far away,” he said. “That’s the frustrating thing.  I feel like there's stretches of holes like on that front nine where three birdies and an eagle in the space of five holes; I know that it's in there.  It's just all the other stuff… I was wasteful around the greens today…

“Look, the way I played last week and the first round today, it obviously is still very early days in the season.  As I said, I feel pretty comfortable with my game.  It's just a matter of going out there and being able to show it rather than just on the range and at home.”

At this stage of the game, he’s used to the panic stations that sets in when he shoots a poor round. 

“I guess I realise what's expected of me,” he said. “I expect a lot from myself, but you know, shooting one-over par out there today isn't too bad.

“It's obviously not what I wanted.  But no reason to panic and no reason to be alarmed.  Just go out tomorrow and put some red numbers on the board and try and get myself back in it.

“To be four over through 12 holes, actually, and get back to have a chance to shoot something around even par, bogeyed the last, but felt like a good bogey in the end.  So to make a bit of a comeback like that was nice.”

As for Holmes, the  American started birdie-birdie-eagle on the back nine, picked up two more birdies at the 16th and 17th to turn in 30 and came home in 32 with further birdies at the first, third, seventh and eighth.

What was he playing?

“Apparently the same one I guess,” he said. “Hit a lot of good shots today, and pretty much on every hole I put the ball below the hole where I had a chance to make a putt.”

Needless to say, he loves the redesign of the course, which opened last year.

“I like it.  I think it's way better. Before this, I didn't care for it at all.  One of my least favourite tracks on Tour.  It was just too easy, I felt like, for a World Golf Championship — 22 under winning really shouldn't happen. 

“I played great today but it is a very difficult golf course, and today a lot of tees were up.  They could definitely put the tees back and make it play a lot harder, and it's already playing hard.

“The best players in the world are here, and the average is over par today, already tells you how hard the golf course is, and they had a lot of tees up.”

As for round two, he said: “It’s just a tough golf course, so if I go out and shoot even or one-under tomorrow, that would be a good round.”