AS IT STANDS -16 D. Johnson; -12 Im, Ancer, Smith; -11 Frittelli; -10 Thomas; -9 Munoz, Reed, Rahm; -8 McIlroy, Koepka, Fleetwood, Matsuyama. OTHERS -5 Woods; -3 DeChambeau; +2 Mickelson.
So much for ‘the most open Masters in years’.
Dustin Johnson has one arm inside the green jacket after continuing his irresistible form at Augusta National during the third round of this year’s COVID-delayed tournament.
After no fewer than nine players had a share of the lead early in round three, the world No.1 assumed control, eventually signing for a seven-under 65 to establish a four-shot lead over nearest challengers Sungjae Im, Abraham Ancer and Cam Smith with 18 holes to play.
It was Johnson’s tenth consecutive round in the 60s at Augusta National, matching the record set by Tiger Woods 18 years ago.
At 16-under-par, he has also tied Jordan Spieth’s 54-hole scoring record and is the sixth player in Masters history to play the first 54 holes in -14 or better. The previous five, for what it’s worth, all went on to win.
The stars certainly seem to be aligning for Johnson to secure his second major victory but, sensibly, he’s taking nothing for granted.
MASTERS PREVIEW POD FEAT. GARY PLAYER
“I think I've got a good game plan,” he said. “I'm not going to change it. It's just, you know, I'm going to have to go out and play well. here's a lot of really good players right around me, so as we all know here, if you get it going, you can shoot some low scores.
“I'm going to need to go out and play a really good round of golf if I want to win tomorrow.”
“Right now, I feel comfortable with every part of the game. So there's not really anything I need to work on. Tomorrow, just make sure I just worry about what I'm doing, not worry about what everybody else is doing. It's a long day. I just need to be patient out there. I feel like I've done a good job of that the first three rounds, and tomorrow's going to be a lot more of the same.”
This is the third time in his career that Johnson has held the 54-hole lead in a major championship. The most recent of the two previous occasions came in August at the US PGA Championship where he led by a shot with 18 holes to go, ultimately losing out to Collin Morikawa. The time before that was the 2010 US Open where he famously squandered a three-shot lead to let Graeme McDowell in for the win.
Third time’s a charm?
“If I can play like I did today, I think I will break that streak,” he added. “I mean, tomorrow, it's just 18 holes of golf. I need to go out and play solid. I feel like I'm swinging really well. If I can just continue to give myself a lot of looks at birdie, I think I'll have a good day.”
Im, meantime, is hoping to become the first debutant to win the Masters since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979. Should he come through, he’ll become the first Asian to win the green jacket and only the second Asian male ever to win a major.
“I know a lot of people back home are staying up late and not sleeping watching the Masters, watching me perform,” said the 22-year-old. “I want to stay composed again and make sure I finish strong so that I make them happy.”