SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - 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.
Johnson 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.”
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.”
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.”
Reporting by Rory Carroll and Frank Pingue; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Michael Perry
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