BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. J.B. Holmes hung on to shoot a 2-under 68 and take a one-stroke lead into the clubhouse midway through the second round of the PGA Championship on Friday.
Out on the course, first-round co-leader Jeev Milkha Singh was at 2 under early in his round.
While Holmes, who spurted to the outright lead with three consecutive birdies on the back nine, was the only player to finish the second round below par, several other players were on the course at 1 under. Aaron Baddeley birdied two of his first three holes and was at 1 under along with Sergio Garcia, Ken Duke, Billy Mayfair and Sean O'Hair, who had yet to tee off in the second round.
At even par were Ben Curtis, Justin Rose and Charlie Wi. Curtis and Rose each shot tournament-low 67s, with Wi posting his second consecutive 70.
"The conditions were much tougher than I expected this morning, so I was happy that I was still able to go out and put together a decent score," Rose said. "The putter was the key to the round. I putted pretty well yesterday, but the greens were spiked up, so I was excited about what I would be able to do in fresher conditions today."
Holmes, trying to make a final push to make the U.S. Ryder Cup team, shot a 71 in the opening round. While others struggled in the early going of the second round at the Donald Ross-designed layout in suburban Detroit, he got hot.
He birdied the par-5 second hole then was even over the next nine holes before making birdies on the par-5 12th, par-3 13th and par-4 14th to get to 4 under for his round and 3 under for the tournament.
The 26-year-old Kentuckian bogeyed two of the next three holes to fall back to 1 under. He saved par with an up and down from the greenside rough at 18 to preserve his 68.
Almost no one else was solving the brutal course, which the field played to an average of five shots over par in the weather-delayed first round.
In other words, they were ideal conditions for Curtis.
Curtis came out of nowhere or, more precisely, from No. 396 in the world golf rankings to win the 2003 British Open at Royal St. George's.
Despite dreadful conditions including horizontal rain and powerful winds at this year's British Open at Royal Birkdale, he overcame an opening-round 78 to finish 69-70-75 to finish in a tie for seventh.
"You never know. You might shoot an 8-over and it comes down to Sunday and you can still have a chance to win," he said after his round which included a bogey and four birdies.
Robert Karlsson, who shared the lead with Singh after the opening round, bogeyed his first four holes to drop to 2 over.
How difficult was the course? It was so hard that three-time major championship winner Vijay Singh reached the green at the par-3 ninth and finished with a triple-bogey 6. His first putt rolled off the huge bowl in the middle of the green and ran all the way off the front. His third shot ended up short and he three-putted from there, most likely missing the cut with his second 76.
"The course is playing a lot harder today than yesterday," Wi said. "The wind's a lot harder. I know the guys playing in the afternoon, it's going to be very challenging for them."
Angel Cabrera of Argentina, winner of the 2007 U.S. Open, playing in one of the first groups off the tee on Friday, got to 2 under at one point but then wilted down the stretch to shoot a 72 and was at 142. He had an eagle and two birdies through the first 12 holes to briefly pull into a tie with Karlsson and Singh.
Andres Romero, also from Argentina, made a charge to get to 1 under but had his round ruined with a quadruple-bogey 8 at the par-4 16th.
Steve Elkington, the 1995 PGA Championship winner, made an early splurge but then took two double bogeys in a 73 which left him at 4 over.