PGA Championship: Complete game gives Johnson third round lead

Dustin Johnson secured a one-stroke lead after the third round of the PGA Championship and looks set to win his second major title.

Dustin Johnson

Dustin Johnson's eight birdies were the most by him in a single round at a major.   -  Getty Images

Dustin Johnson's hot putter and improved accuracy off the tee gave him a one-stroke lead after the third round of the PGA Championship on Saturday, with the American looking set to secure his second major title on Sunday.

Johnson's eight birdies were the most by him in a single round at a major and helped offset a bogey and double bogey on the front nine as he carded a five-under 65 and sit nine-under par 201 through 56 holes at TPC Harding Park.

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He is one clear of Scottie Scheffler and Cameron Champ with Collin Morikawa, Paul Casey and two-time defending champion Brooks Koepka all lurking a shot further adrift.

“I putted really well. That was key,” said Johnson, who leads the field in strokes gained with the short stick this week.

The former world number one and 2016 U.S. Open champion is looking to avenge his loss at the 2010 PGA Championship, where he was leading entering the final hole but was hit with a controversial two-stroke penalty for grounding his club in a bunker and finished tied for fifth.

Johnson said landing the ball safely on the course's narrow fairways will be key to hoisting the Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday.

“Tomorrow I definitely need to hit some more fairways, because it's really tough playing this golf course from the rough,” said Johnson, who hit seven of 14 fairways on Saturday.

Johnson will be paired with Scheffler, who signed a busy scorecard that included eight birdies and three bogeys including one on the difficult par-four 18th, a hole that could prove critical on Sunday given the bunched leaderboard.

The 24-year-old Scheffler said he was trying to keep his wits about him as he looks to secure his first major title.

“There's definitely some nerves but just got to try and handle them as best I can and go out and play, and I did a good job of that today,” he said.

 

Hard-hitting Sacramento native Champ fired a 67 under foggy and cold San Francisco skies, conditions he said he is well used to playing in as the 25-year-old also looks to capture his maiden major.

“Obviously there is a comfortability,” he said.

“I've played a lot of golf down here growing up in junior events, state ams. And this has similar weather conditions as Monterey, which I've played a lot in, so I'm definitely used to that, kind of cold and damp,” he added.

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Four-time major champion Koepka, who had an uncharacteristic three bogey stretch late but birdied the last in his round of 69, said he would use his considerable experience on the sport's biggest stages to his advantage even if there are no fans in attendance due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I feel very comfortable around the lead in the big events,” he said.

“Obviously we don't have fans here, which makes it a little different when they're hooting and hollering.

“It can be fun if they're cheering for you, but if they're against you it's not so much fun. It's going to feel completely different than any one we've ever played. I'm looking forward to it tomorrow.

“It should be a fun shootout,” he added.

- Misfiring Woods unable to make a move -

Tiger Woods entered the third round of the PGA Championship on Saturday knowing he needed something special to get himself into contention but instead misfired off the tee, struggled on the greens early and failed to generate any momentum.

Woods, who made the cut with a shot to spare, could not find much of a spark as he mixed four bogeys with a pair of late birdies for a two-over-par 72 that left him at two over on the week.

“I didn't make anything early. I had a couple of opportunities to make a couple of putts, and I didn't. They were burning edges. I had a couple of lipouts, and just nothing really got... the round going,” said Woods.

Tiger Woods

For a while it looked like Woods, who only hit four fairways and 12 greens in regulation, was about to card his first round at a major championship without a birdie since the opening days of the 2010 U.S. Open.   -  AP Photo

 

“It's just like yesterday. I just didn't get anything going, and had to claw and fight to get my way back, and didn't really get anything going until the last few holes,” he added.

For a while it looked like Woods, who only hit four fairways and 12 greens in regulation, was about to card his first round at a major championship without a birdie since the opening days of the 2010 U.S. Open.

But the 15-times major champion, playing in only his second tournament since mid-February, rolled in a 14-foot birdie putt at 16 and added another at 18 where he struck his approach shot to five feet to make his score a bit more respectable.

“Happy the way I finished. I made some putts on the last five holes, but that's about it,” said Woods. “It was just a fight all day, and unfortunately (I) just didn't get anything going,” he added.