Photo courtesy of Christian Petersen/PGA of America via Getty Images
Thanks to a major career high in birdies in a round with eight, Dustin Johnson will carry a one-shot lead into the final round of the PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco.
Johnson finished Saturday’s third round at 9-under, one shot better than Sacramento’s Cameron Champ and Scottie Sheffler. Collin Morikawa – a Cal grad – along with Paul Casey and two-time defending PGA champ Brooks Koepka, are two shots back at 7-under. Six more golfers are at 6-under.
Third-round leader Haotong Li shot a 3-over 73 and sits at 5-under, three shots off the lead.
Saturday’s round was San Francisco golf in the summer at its finest as the marine layer came in, along with the wind that made it a test of golf, much the way a major should be.
But Johnson, a major winner in the past and the owner of 21 career wins, had the game to battle through.
“I putted really well. That was key. I hit a lot of good shots to give myself some good looks because the flags are tucked,” said Johnson. “The greens are firm and fast. So, I did hit a lot of quality iron shots.”
The plan for the final round is straightforward.
“Tomorrow I think I need to go — I definitely need to hit some more fairways, because it’s really tough playing this golf course from the rough,” said Johnson. “Obviously, the bunkers, too, are very tough. I had a few nice up-and-downs out of the bunkers, but also a few poor ones.”
Scheffler fired a 5-under Saturday to earn his spot in the final pairing Sunday. He had a run of three birdies on the back nine Saturday to charge up the leaderboard.
“Yeah, that was fun. My putter got a little bit cold there on the back nine,” explained Scheffler. “I had a three-putt on 11 and made a nice one on 12 but it was a little cold, missed an easy one on 14. So, it was nice seeing the putt go in on 15, kind of freed me up a little bit and made two really nice ones on 16 and 17 for sure. Put myself in a good position for tomorrow.”
Champ followed a good second round with another good one Saturday to put him in nice shape for the final round. One of the longest, if not the longest hitters on the tour, Champ has been using his distance off the tee to help him out around the course.
“I’ve been really feeding off my driver. That’s been the key for me,” said Champ. “Obviously today, I missed a few more fairways than I did yesterday, but I still was able to manage it from the rough. The drives I did hit well, and I did hit in the fairway, I was able to take advantage of and make some putts.”
Koepka is shooting for his third straight PGA title and feels confident heading into the final round, despite having three straight bogeys at one point Saturday.
“I’m playing good, so I like my chances. Just put the ball in the fairway a few more times and not in the semi,” said Koepka. That would be all right, just not short-side myself. If I can do that tomorrow and not short-side myself, I’ll have a good chance.”
By Dennis Miller