Imperious Dustin Johnson powers into six-shot Shanghai golf lead
American in commanding position heading into Sunday’s final round after challenge fails to materialise from compatriot Brooks Koepka
Dustin Johnson charged into a handsome six-shot lead at the US$9.75 million WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai on Saturday after an anticipated third-round battle with close friend Brooks Koepka failed to materialise.
In breezy conditions Johnson’s four-under-par 68 stretched his one-shot overnight lead on his fellow American, who shot an error-strewn 73, leaving the world number one in pole position for the final day on Sunday.
Third at Sheshan International Golf Club, on 206 overall and seven shots off the imperious Johnson, was last year’s runner-up Henrik Stenson of Sweden.
American Brian Harman and Englishman Justin Rose, the Rio 2016 Olympic champion, were joint fourth.
“I’m not worried about what anyone else is doing, I’ve got enough to worry about with just myself,” said Johnson on his mindset going into the decisive day with such a big lead.
“I’m not going to change my game plan playing no matter what Brooks does, Henrik, whoever is out there playing.
“I’m going to stick to it and hopefully execute.”
Johnson and Koepka live near one another in Florida and are fishing and gym buddies.
But the niceties were left in the clubhouse and reigning US Open champion Koepka was immediately on the front foot, grabbing a birdie at the first while Johnson carded just his third bogey of the week.
That immediately wiped out Johnson’s slender overnight lead and was the first of three birdies on the spin for the 27-year-old Koepka to propel him briefly into the lead.
But that was as good as it got for Koepka.
Johnson made birdies at holes two, four, seven and then at eight, where Koepka’s challenge faltered badly with a horror triple bogey.
The 33-year-old Johnson, the 2013 Shanghai champion and 2016 US Open winner, made the turn having opened up a four-shot lead on his rival.
Johnson gave a subtle shake of the head after a double bogey at the par-four 10th, but Koepka failed to capitalise with a bogey of his own and Johnson was always in control after that despite the tricky wind.
Hideki Matsuyama, the reigning champion from Japan, had another poor day with a 72 to leave him firmly out of the reckoning.