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Holmes solves case of monster

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- One by one, they staggered away from Oakland Hills on Friday in the second round of the PGA Championship.

Golf’s best wobbled off with spirits bruised and battered by a course Ben Hogan once called a monster.

“Brutal, absolutely brutal,” Brandt Snedeker said.

Vijay Singh ran his putt at the ninth hole off the green, chipped back on and three-putted from four feet.

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Highly motivated to make the European Ryder Cup team, Colin Montgomerie shot 84. Sergio Garcia four-putted the 17th green.

And then there was J.B. Holmes.

The long hitter from Kentucky strutted away after pounding his driver into the heart of the course with impunity. He’s fueled with determination to qualify for the Ryder Cup matches scheduled in his home state next month.

With a two-under-par 68, Holmes attacked the monster in a morning round played in slightly more favorable conditions.

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At one-under 139, he’s the last man still under par.

It’s the first time in three decades that the leader has stood alone under par through two rounds of the PGA Championship.

Holmes is one shot ahead of 2003 British Open champion Ben Curtis (67), England’s Justin Rose (67) and Charie Wi (70), who’s playing his first major.

David Toms (69), the 2001 PGA Championship winner, is two back with Sweden’s Henrik Stenson (70).

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Spain’s Garcia (73), seeking his first major championship, is three behind. Phil Mickelson (73) is four back at three over despite stumbling home with bogeys at three of the final five holes.

Though Holmes overpowered a number of holes with his mammoth drives, he sympathized with the wave of players bemoaning the torment inflicted by the setup. The devilish humps and swales on baked greens are testing skill and temperament.

“There are a lot of holes out there that are almost unplayable,” Holmes said. “They are a little ridiculous.”

Holmes took control by slamming his first tee shot 375 yards. He hit his second drive even longer than that to set up his first birdie.

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“That drive was close to 400 yards,” he said.

The cut was at eight-over 148, the highest at the PGA Championship since 2003 at Oak Hill, when it was 149.

Holmes, 26, a two-time winner of the FBR Open, is 16th on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list. The top eight on the list after this weekend’s play secure automatic spots on the American team.

“I’ve put myself in a position where I have a chance,” Holmes said. “I don’t think a lot of people have the opportunity to play for their country, much less do it in their home state. That would be a dream come true.”

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A fierce test still remains with Oakland Hills getting more difficult by the minute as wind and sun dry those greens.

Garcia had a severely twisting 50-foot putt for birdie to tie Holmes for the lead at the 17th hole, but he left it six feet short, knocked the par putt two feet past, then lipped out the short comebacker for bogey.

“I don’t think it’s going to be won by one under par,” Garcia said. “I just need to make sure that I stay around where I am and maybe a little closer to par. That’s going to have a chance on Sunday.”

The 17th hole yielded one birdie in the second round, a 30-foot chip-in by Anthony Kim. The 18th was birdied only twice, once by Jim Furyk, who needed it to make the cut on the number.

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“I hit some extremely good golf shots where you just throw your hands up in the air and say, ‘Shoot, what can I do?’ ” Furyk said. “It’s one of the hardest golf courses I’ve ever played. There are a lot of holes where birdies aren’t in the cards. They’re accidental.”

Montgomerie’s 84 equaled his highest score in 197 major championship rounds.

He made 10 bogeys and two double bogeys and missed the cut, despite the good memories of his Ryder Cup performance on this course four years ago.

“Extremely difficult, as any course I’ve ever played,” Montgomerie said. “Nothing like the place that we came and did so well at four years ago.”

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