Four strokes in front overnight after opening with a blistering 10-under-par 62 on the daunting Blue Monster course, American Holmes followed up with a one-over 73 to retain control of the elite World Golf Championships (WGC) event.

With danger and plenty of water lurking at almost every corner of the firm and fast-running layout, Holmes mixed five birdies with four bogeys and a double at the par-four 18th to post a nine-under total of 135.

Fellow American Ryan Moore was alone at seven under after a 71 with Australian Adam Scott, who is using a conventional short putter this week for the first time in four years, a further stroke back with a 68.

Northern Irish world number one McIlroy, whose frustrations boiled over at the par-five eighth when he hurled his three-iron into a pond, re-grouped to shoot a 70 and end the day eight strokes off the pace.

"You're trying to shoot the best score possible and sometimes you do things that you wish you hadn't," McIlroy told Golf Channel after a round that included six birdies and four bogeys.

"Frustration got the better of me," the 25-year-old said of his club toss after dumping his second shot into water.

"I wouldn't encourage kids to do it if they were watching on television. It wasn't very role modelish of me."

Holmes, a three-times PGA Tour winner, was unfortunate to bogey his opening hole, the par-five first, after hitting what seemed to be a superb second shot that rolled off the right edge of the green into water.

Though he also found water with his tee shot at the treacherous last to run up another six, he recorded five birdies in between to maintain his place atop the leaderboard.

Australian world number five Scott fired the day's best round, a six-birdie 68 catapulting him into third place.

"You've got to play some really good golf to get around in under par out there," said Scott, who picked up four shots in his first eight holes after teeing off at the 10th.

"I hit a lot of good shots today and made some putts. So, at the moment, things are pretty rosy."

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