Holmes leads at Doral as Blue Monster turns mean

DORAL, Fla. (AP) — If the water separating the eighth and 10th holes at Trump National Doral ever gets drained, there are sure to be hundreds of golf balls, and a 3-iron with a swoosh stamped on the back. That belongs to Rory McIlroy.

In a fit of frustration that was followed by some self-deprecating humor, McIlroy created the wrong kind of splash Friday at the Cadillac Championship.

Two of them, actually.

Trying to play a cut from 226 yards, McIlroy hit a draw and knew it was going in the water. What happened moments later was the surprise.

He took the club back, transferred his weight and heaved it some 50 yards into the lake.

“Felt good at the time,” McIlroy said after his 2-under 70 that kept just outside the top 10 in this World Golf Championship, though still eight shots behind J.B. Holmes. “Look, I just let frustration get the better of me. … Looking back, it wasn’t my proudest moment.”

It was a fitting reaction to the Blue Monster.

Even a year after the renovation by Gil Hanse allowed the new grass to develop and the course to get a little softer, it still has plenty of teeth. Water is everywhere. Slopes are sharp off the greens. Slight mistakes are punished in a big way.

Add that to McIlroy’s own irritation to his game and maybe the distance of the club throw wasn’t all that shocking.

Holmes was at 9-under 135 — that’s eight shots better than the 36-hole lead a year ago — and he was plenty irritated after his round of 1-over 73. Not because it was 11 shots worse than his tournament record-tying opening round. Not even because of a double bogey on his final hole that shrunk his lead to two shots over Ryan Moore.

It was his opening hole, a par 5 that measures 606 yards.

Holmes pounded a 360-yard drive and hit 6-iron straight up in the air and seemingly perfect. It landed 3 feet off the left edge of the green and 5 feet on the front of it, and rolled all the way through, over a ridge, to the right … and into the water.

“That’s not hard,” he said. “That’s stupid.”

He wasn’t alone, of course. Masters champion Bubba Watson rolled off the right of the green and into the water. Henrik Stenson had a 4-wood to the green, and instead chose to lay up because he feared he couldn’t hold the green. “Avoid big numbers,” he said.

The par-5 first was the one everyone was talking about. Holmes also came up short on the third hole, off the bank and into the water. For his double bogey on the 18th, his ball narrowly cleared the water, only to bounce off a bank and back in the drink.

Holmes had five birdies — that’s 13 birdies and an eagle in 36 holes — that were offset by enough bogeys (and the double bogey) for a 73. Moore had 15 pars, which showed he stayed out of trouble.

Going into the weekend of this World Golf Championship, only five players have broken par both days.

Stenson was one of them (69-71).

“I think the margins are very slim on quite a few of the shots,” he said. “You can hit something that most other weeks would be a good birdie chances, it takes a hop and you’re in the water scrambling for par or bogey. On certain holes, it’s pushed a little bit. We know that’s the case, so you come out here and try to make a game play accordingly and avoid problems as much as you can.

“To a degree, it promotes more defensive play in a lot of areas, which can be boring.”

So that’s what it comes down to at the Blue Monster — a redesign with water everywhere, a sensational look to it, and boring to play to avoid the big numbers.

The weekend could be intriguing.

It starts with Holmes, who might have had the best round of the year with his 62 on Thursday, which was just over 11 shots better than the field average. He is in the final group with Moore, who had a 71.

Adam Scott shot a 68, the low score of the second round, and was at 6-under 138. Watson and Stenson were at 4-under 140, with Dustin Jonson (73), Alex Levy of France (73) and Ryan Palmer (70) six shots behind.

McIlroy was eight shots behind and curious what the weekend would bring. He missed the cut at the Honda Classic. He doesn’t feel as though his game is very far off, though it’s bothering him to hit shots on the course that he never sees on the range.

“As you saw out there, it’s quite frustrating at times,” he said.

McIlroy opened with two birdies. He followed with two bogeys. He made a birdie at No. 7. He had a mini-meltdown at No. 8. At least he could laugh about it, even though club throw is sure to cost him a fine. But he kept his sense of humor.

“It was heat of the moment,” he said. “If it had been any other club, I probably wouldn’t have. But I didn’t need a 3-iron for the rest of the round, so I thought, ‘Why not?'”

This article was written by Doug Ferguson from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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