- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 24, 2006

The latest stop in rookie J.B. Holmes’ whirlwind season has landed him on the Booz Allen Classic leader board.

Holmes shot a 66 in the second round to reach the midpoint at 9-under, his best round since winning the FBR Open in his sixth career start in February.

Winning February’s FBR Open in Phoenix brought with it plenty of attention for Holmes, who was best known for his lengthy shots off the tee (he ranks second in driving distance). However, he has not cracked the top 30 in his last 11 events, though he was encouraged about making the cut last week at the U.S. Open.

“My swing got a little out of whack and my confidence got down, but I’m starting to come out of that,” Holmes said. “I feel like I’m hitting the ball, and I hit the ball great at the U.S. Open — I mean, I hit it awesome. I was amazed with my putter [today], and I’m just waiting for the putts to go in. I feel like I could do something big.”

Holmes birdied four of his last five holes at TPC at Avenel to cap his round and to jump into contention for the first time since his victory. His struggles could be a function of weariness — he was accustomed to playing about 20 events a year in college at Kentucky, and is already playing his 16th tournament this year.

“I think every rookie in a professional sport goes through a bit of a slump,” Holmes said. “I hope I’m coming out of mine and [I’m] looking forward to the rest of the year.”

Hammond at home

Cheered on by a large contingent of friends and family, Frederick, Md., native Donnie Hammond delivered a 5-under 66 — his best round on tour since a 65 at Las Vegas in October 2004 — to make his second cut in five starts this year.

“I was thinking that was the best stretch of nine holes yesterday and 18 today that I’ve had around here,” said Hammond, who is at 6-under after playing his way into the tournament in qualifying on Monday. “I remember hitting a lot more shots out of bunkers and chipping, and I was just hitting a lot of greens.”

The two-time winner on the PGA Tour plans to split 2007 between the PGA Tour and the Champions Tour. He becomes eligible for the latter when he turns 50 on April 1, and is already looking forward to the experience.

“You have a cart, there’s no cut, there’s only 54 holes and you’re playing against all old people,” Hammond said. “Doesn’t that sound good to you?”

Every misses cut

Former Florida star Matt Every, who was the Ben Hogan Award winner as the nation’s top college golfer this year, missed the cut in his first professional start after shooting 75-71 on a course that yields plenty of birdies and doesn’t play to his strengths as an accurate ball striker.

Every, who received a sponsor’s exemption, isn’t sure how much more he’ll play this season. He has a spot in the B.C. Open — an event played the same weekend as the British Open — though more opportunities could arise in the next few months.

“I’m just looking forward to the rest of the summer,” Every said. “I’m 0-for-1 so far, but I’m having a lot of fun and it beats college golf.”

Chip-ins

Padraig Harrington shot 65 to jump into the top 10 at 7-under less than a week after contending at the grueling U.S. Open. “The longer this tournament goes on for me, and even if that means a rain delay, the better,” Harrington said. “I’m recovering more every day. Yesterday, I hit a wall at the end of my round, and today I got tired again. The more hours I can rack up in the bed and the more sleep I get, the better.” …

Takoma Park native Fred Funk shot 68 to move to 3-under. … Navy graduate Billy Hurley III shot 69, but still missed the cut at 4-over.

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