Blue Monster is tougher, but J.B. Holmes still leads

J.B. Holmes has two-shot lead over Ryan Moore after two rounds at Doral

The wind wasn't as strong Friday, but the Blue Monster at Trump National Doral played every bit as tough, if not tougher.

Given that, J.B. Holmes was OK with his one-over-par 73 and a two-shot lead halfway through the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship, although he wasn't happy the course sometimes penalized good shots.

"I'm still in the lead, so it couldn't have been that bad," said Holmes, the first-day leader by four shots after an eye-popping 62. "If you told me at the beginning of the week I'd have a two-shot lead after two rounds I'd have said, 'All right, sounds good.' "

Holmes finished with a double bogey after hitting his drive in the water.

"I missed two or three swings yesterday and they ended up being OK and I missed two or three swings today and they went in the water," Holmes said. "There was not much difference between this round and yesterday. I easily could have shot six under today. So it just shows how difficult this course is and how you can get a couple bad breaks and make some numbers."

Ryan Moore, who shot 66 Thursday, had two birdies and a bogey for a 71 Friday to hold on to second place at seven under. He said the change in wind direction from southeast Thursday, which is best for lower scores, to east Friday increased the Blue Monster's difficulty.

"If it just shifts a little bit to the east it changes a lot," Moore said. "That's kind of what it did today and it just makes a few of those holes that much harder. You kind of have to wait and see every day where it's at and kind of go from there."

Adam Scott, playing in his first tournament of 2015, had the day's best round, a 68, to move into third place at six under.

Bubba Watson (69) Henrik Stenson (71) were tied for fourth at four under. Top-ranked Rory McIlroy was at one under after a 70, and Phil Mickelson was far back after a second consecutive 74.

The wind Friday was 6-12 mph compared with 15-25 mph Thursday. But the scoring average for the 73-player field was slightly higher Friday at 73.466.

"Although the wind was down, it was still very tough," Moore said. "The pins were in really, really hard locations to get it around the hole and get even 10-footers for birdie."

"It's a lot harder," Watson said. "Every green is starting to turn that little purplish color, so that means the wedge shots to three-iron shots are just going to keep running.

"It's just going to get tougher and tougher as it keeps drying out."

Holmes got off to a tough start, hitting his second shot on the green of the 606-yard, par-five first hole but having the ball roll down into the water, which resulted in a bogey.

"It's pretty bad that you can hit two perfect shots and the ball can go in the water because of just a ridiculous green design. It's stupid," said Holmes, who questioned why there is a hump in the middle of the narrow green that sends balls into the water.

"I hit a 350-yard drive and hit a six-iron straight up in the air, it landed three feet off the left edge of the green and five feet on and it goes in the water on the right side of the green."

Holmes wasn't alone in his criticism of the Blue Monster, which was renovated after the 2013 tournament. Several players said they hit their second shots short of the green on the first hole so they could try to hit a wedge close to the pin.

"The green is just incredibly difficult," said Scott, who wedged to 10 feet from 84 yards, but missed the birdie putt. "It is not inviting to hit any kind of long iron in at all with this kind of firmness, and it almost would be foolish, too, because I can pretty much tell you the outcome of what's going to happen if you pitch a long iron on the green."

swaters@tribpub.com

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