(Reuters) - American J.B. Holmes made light of the daunting Blue Monster course as he fired a sizzling 10-under-par 62 to seize a commanding four-shot lead in the first round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship in Miami on Thursday.
While world number one Rory McIlroy recovered from a dismal start to open with a one-over 73, the long-hitting Holmes piled up an eagle and eight birdies to take control of the first of the year’s four elite World Golf Championships (WGC) events.
Despite blustery conditions on a fast-running layout at the Trump National Doral Resort, Holmes delivered a near-perfect exhibition of course management as he stole the limelight from a high-calibre field including every player in the world’s top 50.
Fellow American Ryan Moore double-bogeyed his last hole, the par-four 18th, after finding water off the tee to card a 66 while Frenchman Alexander Levy and Americans Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler opened with 68s.
”We game-planned it,“ Holmes, a three-times winner on the PGA Tour, told Golf Channel after getting up and down from a greenside bunker to par his final hole, the par-three ninth. ”I hit all my shots where I needed to.
”I hit great putts, hit great shots and my tee ball was right where I wanted it to be. I really didn’t have that many bad swings.
“I had a couple of bad swings with the driver and I made birdie on those two holes so I was able to get out of it just fine. It was a great day and you don’t get those very often.”
Holmes eagled the par-five 12th after hitting a six-iron from 226 yards to within a foot of the cup for a tap-in putt.
“I hit it just like I had envisioned and luckily we guessed right on the bounce,” he smiled.
McIlroy, who missed the cut at last week’s Honda Classic in windy conditions after making his first PGA Tour start of the year, struggled badly in his first nine holes on Thursday.
The Northern Irishman reached the turn in four-over 40 after bogeying the 11th and 17th and running up a double at the 18th but rebounded with a storming run over the closing stretch.
Birdies at the fourth, fifth and seventh and an eagle at the eighth more than offset further dropped shots at the sixth and ninth as he ended the day at one over.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue