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J.B. Holmes is trying to become the latest in a long line of players who have made the PGA Championship their first career major title. (Shamus/Getty Images)

Deja Daly? Holmes challenges Oakland Hills with driver in second round

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He's from Kentucky and badly wants to make the Ryder Cup team. Kenny Perry? No, he's J.B. Holmes, and he zoomed into the lead at Oakland Hills with 400-yard drives and solid iron play.

By Dave Shedloski, PGATOUR.COM Senior Correspondent

BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- He "whaled away" with his driver Friday at Oakland Hills Country Club, and the result for J.B. Holmes was an opportunity to swim with the big fish at the year's final major championship.

Check that. Make that top dog.

With the greens drying out and gusting winds adding another element of treachery, Holmes played a heavy metal tune at Oakland Hills to the tune of a 2-under-par 68 that gave him the clubhouse lead midway through the second round of the 90th PGA Championship.

At 1-under 139, Holmes was atop a leaderboard that included the likes of Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, Ben Curtis and Angel Cabrera.

"I played great. I left a few out there, but overall it was a very good ballstriking round," said Holmes, 26, who won his second FBR Open earlier this year. "It was probably the best ballstriking round I've had this year."

More PGA Championship:
Pairings, tee times
Holmes' scorecard
Oakland Hills changes
Full leaderboard

A two-time PGA TOUR winner, Holmes hasn't done much since he won the FBR Open in a playoff with Mickelson and then tied for seventh two weeks later at the Northern Trust Open. He did tie for 10th at THE PLAYERS, which lifted him to No. 9 on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, but since then the native of Campbellsville, Ky., has missed the cut in four of his last six starts. He entered the week 16th in the Ryder Cup standings.

Putting has been an issue, and he struggled with the flat stick again on Friday, needing 19 of his 32 putts for the day on the front nine as he turned in 34. "I don't feel real lucky. I hit the ball better than that," he said. "I shot 1 under and had 19 putts. That was real frustrating."

He turned things around a bit on his inward nine with a string of three straight birdies starting at the par-5 12th, which he reached in two with a driver and 8-iron. He chipped to four feet and converted, followed by an 8-footer for a birdie 2 at the 13th after a 5-iron. He capped the run with a 25-footer from the fringe.

Bogeys on 15 and 17 brought him back to the pack and provided a dose of disappointment, but overall he liked his position, especially with the Ryder Cup in the back of his mind.

"That would be huge for me," he said of making the U.S. team that will compete against Europe in the 37th Ryder Cup at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky.

Speaking of huge, that was Holmes's game plan on Friday with the winds gusting. He let his driver loose on many holes, driving the 300-yard par-4 sixth for an easy two-putt birdie, for example. A couple of pops, he said, traveled close to 400 yards.

"He played great. He did everything well and was just very solid," said playing partner Chris DiMarco.

Mostly, though, he simply gripped it and ripped it the way John Daly did in winning the 1991 PGA Championship.

Asked if this was a sound strategy, Holmes didn't pull any punches after his round, just like he didn't from the tee box.

"Depends on how you hit it," he said. "I'm not that aggressive if I'm not hitting my driver good. If I'm hitting bad shots with it, you don't hit it as much. Every time you hit it, you hit it right where you've looked, whale away. I don't think I missed a fairway with my driver, so I didn't have to make that call."

The call to the first tee Saturday will be a late one. And he has yet to play his best, he thinks.

"I'm hitting the ball real well. If I get the putter, make a few more putts -
if I can hit it like I did today, I really felt like I almost shot the highest score I could have shot today; I hit the ball that well," Holmes said. "So, you know, just continue to hit the ball well I feel pretty good going into the weekend."

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