Open Championship contender J.B. Holmes feared his career was practically over just four weeks ago following an abysmal slump in form.

The American carded rounds of 66 and 68 to head into this weekend among the leading pack at Royal Portrush on eight under par.

His exploits in Northern Ireland stand in stark contrast to his recent outings on the PGA Tour, where missed cuts have been the norm.

Asked if he had ever endured a similar loss of form before, the 37-year-old replied: “Never. That was the first one. The first one of that extent.

“Obviously I’ve had slumps before, but four weeks ago I thought my career was over. Or felt like it.”

Holmes believes his return to the top of his game owes much to the Dunluce Links course, which he has tamed better than most over the first two days.

“It’s set up great for me,” he said. “I felt good about it kind of all week. I’ve been hitting it really good.

“I feel like me and my caddie have a good plan on it and we’ve felt comfortable and we’ve executed the shots.”