Dustin Johnson on Saturday drained eight birdies to fire a five-under par 65 and seize a one-shot lead after a blistering third-round performance at the PGA Championship.
Johnson had four birdies on the front nine then birdied three of his final five holes to reach nine-under 201 at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco.
It was the eighth straight round in the 60s at the PGA Championship for Johnson, who nearly chased down Brooks Koepka in the final round at Bethpage Black last year before losing by two shots.
“I putted really well,” said Johnson, who shot 31 on the back nine. “That was key. But I hit a lot of good shots to give myself some good looks because the flags are tucked. The greens are firm and fast. So I did hit a lot of quality iron shots.”
Americans Scottie Scheffler (65) and Cameron Champ (67) are tied for second at eight-under 202.
Two-time defending champion Koepka shot a one-under 69 and is tied for fourth with American Collin Morikawa and England’s Paul Casey on 203.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the tournament is being played without spectators.
Koepka, who is trying to become the first since the 1950s to win the same major three years in a row, looked unflappable until a bogey on the 13th hole began his back nine struggles.
A stretch of three straight bogeys moved Koepka down the leaderboard, but he recovered quickly with birdies on 16 and 18.
Johnson roared home, making birdie putts of 26 feet on the par-4 15th and 20 feet on the par-3 17th.
He began his round with a par, but then drained a 17-foot birdie putt on the par-4 second.
Johnson made back-to-back birdies on the fourth and fifth holes before meeting trouble on the sixth, but even that bogey and a double bogey on the par-4 ninth could not put a damper on his brilliant round.
His eight birdies are the most he has made in any round at a major, bettering the seven birdies he made at the 2017 PGA Championship and the 2014 British Open.
China No. 1 Li Haotong, trying to become the second Asian-born man to win a major title, slid down the leaderboard after shooting a three-over 73.
Li finished with just two birdies after a sizzling second round that saw him fire a bogey-free 65 to take a two-shot lead through 36 holes.
He struggled with three bogeys and a double bogey, a day after he made history by becoming the first player from China to lead in a major championship.
Li, 25, stands at five-under 205 for the tournament, only four strokes back of Johnson, and could still be a factor in the final round if he can hit more fairways.
Li is tied for 13th heading into the final round. His best previous result at a PGA Championship was a 36th last year.
Tiger Woods saw his chances all but extinguished as he struggled on the greens for the second straight day and shot a 72. The 15-time major winner and reigning Masters champion is tied for 59th at 212, 11 behind Johnson.
AP, SYLVANIA, Ohio
Not even a sore back could keep Lydia Ko from building a four-shot lead in the Marathon Classic. Now the former No. 1 player in the world is one round away from ending more than two years without a victory.
Ko felt back pain on the front nine, received treatment from a trainer and played bogey-free over the last 15 holes at Highland Meadows for a 3-under 68 and a four-shot lead over Danielle Kang.
Minjee Lee of Australia had a 68, while Jodi Ewart Shadoff, who started the round one shot behind, struggled to a 73. They were at 10-under 203, six shots behind.
Taiwan’s Chien Pei-yun carded a 66 to finish joint fifth with three other players.
Additional reporting by staff writer
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