Dustin Johnson's seven-under 66 gives him solo lead at Kapalua
When Dustin Johnson entered the final round of the WGC-HSBC Champions with a six-shot lead in October, it seemed like a foregone conclusion he would cruise to his 17th PGA Tour victory. Instead, the World No. 1 stumbled, shooting a final-round 77 and finishing in a tie for second.
Even after those Sunday struggles in China, there's still a similar feeling that he'll get it done this week at Kapalua, where he posted a seven-under 66 on Saturday to match the low round of the tournament. He's at 16-under 203, good enough for a two-shot lead over Brian Harman heading into Sunday at the Sentry Tournament of Champions.
Johnson has played like his pre-2017 Masters self all week in Hawaii, but especially on Saturday, putting on a driving display we've come to expect. He currently ranks tied for first in the field in driving distance through 54 holes.
"I felt like I really drove it well, which I have been all three days," Johnson said.
No drive was more impressive than the one at the 398-yard par-4 sixth, where his launched tee shot rolled up on the green and nearly in the hole while a group was still on the green. He wasn't able to convert, walking away with par, but provided another highlight six holes later at the par-4 12th, landing his 71-yard approach well short of the green and letting it take the slope all the way into the cup for an eagle.
"I had, I don't know, maybe 60 front and then 75 hole or something like that, straight down wind. I knew I just wanted to land it, and I was kind of looking just left of the flag, but short of the green and it hit and rolled on the green," Johnson said. "And I knew once it got on the green that it was going to be pretty good. And, obviously, it went in, so that was definitely a nice bonus."
The eagle-2 got Johnson to four under on the day, and he collected three more birdies at 14, 15 and 18 to finish with a 66. If he can close on Sunday, it'll be his second victory at the Tournament of Champions, and will give him a PGA Tour victory for an 11th straight season.
He'll have to fend off Harman, who bettered Johnson last season by one shot at the Wells Fargo thanks to an incredible putt on the 72nd hole. The Georgia alum sits two back at 14-under 205 after shooting a four-under 69, his third straight sub-70 round of the week. Harman has already put together a strong early start to his 2017-'18 season, finishing eighth or better in the three fall events he played. It's only his second appearance at the Tournament of Champions, the first coming in 2015 when he finished T-17.
Matching Johnson's 66 was Jon Rahm, who sits four back at 12-under 207. Through 13 holes, the Spaniard was just two under on the day, but finished with three birdies and an eagle on his final five holes to vault into contention. Another top 10 finish would be the fifth in the last six starts for the world No. 3, and a victory could move him to No. 2 in the world ranking.
Rickie Fowler is within five of Johnson's lead thanks to a bogey-free five-under 68 that has him at 11-under 208. Since his ugly double bogey on Thursday, he played the following 41 holes in 11 under, making 11 birdies, two bogeys and an eagle. If he's able to conjure up the final-round magic he displayed at the Hero World Challenge in December, where he shot a 61 on Sunday, he'll have a legitimate chance to catch Johnson. But another top-five finish would represent a continuation of his stellar play late in 2017, when he finished second at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba and won the Hero World Challenge.
Jason Dufner posted a four-under 69 with six birdies and two bogeys, tying him with Fowler at 11 under. It's his fourth appearance at the Tournament of Champions, where he's finished inside the top 10 just once, coming in 2014 (solo fifth). A top-10 would be Dufner's first since his victory last June at the Memorial.
Six back is Jhonattan Vegas, who carded a two-under 71 to get to 10-under 209.