J.B. Holmes destroys the Blue Monster with a 62

J.B. Homes ties tournament record at the WGC Cadillac Championship to lead by four shots

Bubba Watson was on the tee of his final hole Thursday when he looked at the scoreboard, saw that J.B. Holmes and Ryan Moore were both eight under par on the Blue Monster at Trump National Doral and turned to his caddie.

"I said, 'I want to know what golf course they're playing. Maybe they're playing the Red or the White.' That's good playing," said Watson, who shot a one-under 71.

Holmes played even better, birdieing two more holes after Watson finished to shoot a 10-under 62 and take the first-round lead in the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship.

Moore made double bogey on the 18th hole after hitting his drive in the water to shoot 66, which was good for second place.

Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler and Frenchman Alexander Levy were tied for third at 68. Brooks Koepka and Henrik Stenson were at 69.

Rory McIlroy continued his slow start on this continent with a 73, one shot better than Phil Mickelson.

On a sunny day with winds of 15-25 mph sweeping across the 7,481-yard course, 21 of the 73 players in the elite field were under par. But no one manhandled the Blue Monster like Holmes, whose 62 tied the tournament record.

"I 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," Holmes said. "Even if it's 25 feet, you have a better chance of making that than a 10- or 15-footer downhill.

"I was able to hit the shots where I envisioned and today the putter was on. Put that combination together, you do everything pretty good, you're going to shoot a good score."

Holmes, 32, hadn't played here since the 2010 tournament, and played only nine holes Tuesday and nine Wednesday.

Starting on the back nine, he birdied the first two holes, then eagled the 603-yard, par-five 12th, where he hit a 376-yard drive with the wind, then a 216-yard six-iron to the green that finished 11 inches from the cup.

It was "as good a start as I can ask for," said Holmes, who had two more birdies to go out in six-under 30, then added four birdies on the front.

A sign of just how good his day was going came on the par-five 1st hole, where his drive went way right into the 18th fairway. He had a clear shot from there and hit the ball in front of the green, almost holed his chip shot and tapped in for birdie.

He flirted with bogey once, on his final hole, the par-three No. 9, after his tee shot landed in the bunker, but he sank a 20-footer to save par.

"It was a great day," Holmes said. "Had a lot of fun and didn't have too many stressful putts. If I didn't make it, it was in there pretty close, so I didn't have a whole bunch of four- or five-footers. My speed with my putting was great today."

Moore, who went out in five under on the front, then birdied holes 10, 11 and 12 to get to eight under before the double bogey at 18, also had a great putting day, needing only 23 putts.

He credited a 4-year-old putter that he had never used before for his success on the greens.

"I have a lot of putters sitting around our house," said Moore, 32. "I picked up a bunch of different putters until one just kind of felt comfortable. Everything just kind of relaxed and I just feel like I'm rolling the ball.

"I was giving myself good, reasonable birdie chances. I made every opportunity that I really had most of the day. I only missed a couple of putts that were very makable."

Levy had four birdies, an eagle and two bogeys for his 68, and he was one of only three players to birdie the 18th. Johnson had six birdies and two bogeys and Fowler had five birdies and a bogey.

"I played really good," said Johnson, who drove the ball well except for two holes and "hit some really quality iron shots. "I thought it was really hard to get it close to the hole. I was really pleased with my round today."

Last year Johnson shot par for 72 holes to tie for fourth behind winner Patrick Reed. Based on that, he said Holmes should be happy if he's at 10 under Sunday afternoon.

"Ten under at the end of the week is still going to look pretty good, I think," Johnson said. "This golf course is really hard."

swaters@tribpub.com

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