Dust in front: Dustin Johnson leads Tour Championship as injured Jason Day withdraws
The US Open champion is a shot clear of fellow American Kevin Chappell and on course to land the US PGA Tour’s US$10 million FedEx Cup play-off prize
American world number
Dustin Johnson edged closer to the US PGA Tour’s US$10 million FedEx Cup play-off prize on Friday after firing a three-under-par 67 to seize a one stroke lead at the season-ending Tour Championship.
US Open champion Johnson, who arrived at East Lake Golf Club at the top of the play-off standings after his win at the BMW Championship two weeks ago, fired five birdies against two bogeys for a seven-under total.
He is one shot in front of fellow American Kevin Chappell, who started the day in a three-way tie for the lead with Johnson and Hideki Matsuyama and signed for a second round 68.
It is three shots back to Matsuyama, who shot a one-over par 71, and Kevin Kisner after his 70.
But world number one Jason Day’s season ended in disappointing fashion as the Australian walked off before completing the eighth hole with back pain.
It’s the same injury that forced Day out of the final round of the BMW Championship, although he had voiced cautious optimism that his back would allow him to challenge for the win this week. A statement from Day’s management team described the injury as a “strained ligament in his lower right back with a muscle spasm” and his withdrawal as a “precautionary measure”.
The top five players in the play-off standings coming into the US$8.5 million season finale can each claim the bonus with a victory.
Anyone lower in the standings must win and count on those top players finishing down the leaderboard – something that was looking less and less likely in Johnson’s case.
Johnson, already the front-runner for player of the year honours, is seeking his fourth title of 2016.
“I felt like I played really, really solid today and just didn’t really get a lot out of it,” Johnson said. “I had some close looks that I didn’t make.
“Still, obviously three-under is a great score around here. I’m never going to be upset with that.”
Johnson had back-to-back birdies at the fifth and sixth and again at 10 and 11 before his first bogey of the day at the 12th.
He nabbed the first birdie of the day at the par-four 16th, hitting his approach from 147 yards to 12 feet and draining the putt.
After giving a shot back at 17, Johnson saved par from six feet at the last, where Chappell missed a chance to pull level.
Watch: Highlight’s of Dustin Johnson’s second round
Chappell, seeking his first PGA Tour title, had three birdies in a row from the sixth through eighth. He bogeyed the 11th, but stayed steady coming in to keep himself in contention.
England’s Paul Casey, Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy and American Ryan Moore were tied for fifth, five shots adrift of Johnson.
Scotland’s Russell Knox carded the lowest round of the day of 66 to join South Korea’s Kim Si-Woo and American Justin Thomas at one-under overall, while defending champion Jordan Spieth was in a group at level par that also included Australian Adam Scott.
World number seven Bubba Watson, angling for the final captain’s pick spot on the US Ryder Cup team, posted an unimpressive 73 that left him tied for 25th.