PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland – J.B. Holmes is already a British Open B Flight winner. He’s in prime position to go one step better at Royal Portrush and win the 148th Open Championship’s A Flight.
Holmes shot an opening 5-under-par 66 to take a one-shot lead over Ireland’s Shane Lowry into day two. The Kentuckian is hoping he doesn’t run into a dynamic duo this time around.
Holmes was third in the 2016 Open Championship at Royal Troon. Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson were in a league of their own that year. Holmes finished a distant 14 shots behind Stenson.
“There were two guys that got really hot that week,” Holmes said. “Besides that, I pretty much had beat the field. So that’s definitely a boost. I learned a lot playing in that event. And you try to take that to the next one.”
That third place is the 37-year-old’s best showing in nine appearances, enough for him to know what it takes to play links golf.
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The Campbellsville, Kentucky native has another advantage this week. He’s experiencing Royal Portrush for the second time.
Holmes sampled Royal Portrush on a trip to Ireland when he was at the University of Kentucky. The long hitter had local bagmen flustered because of his power.
“Most of the caddies we had weren’t used to somebody hitting 315 or 320, so I got some bad lines. I hit five or six shots exactly where they told me to and I lost the ball.”
Holmes won the Genesis Open in February in the same cold conditions he played the opening round. No wonder British bookmakers Ladbrokes have dropped his odds from 400-1 at the start of the week to 33-1.