Nov 15: Dustin Johnson moved one step closer to a second Major and a first Green Jacket, as he broke away from the pack that looked so tightly packed but now has four shots been the World No. 1 and the rest of the field at the 2020 Masters at Augusta, Georgia.
After a record-tying five players at the top after 36 holes, Johnson’s third-round 65 put daylight between him and the rest. At 16 under par, he’s four clear Sungjae Im (68), Abraham Ancer (69) and Cameron Smith (69).
He has Top-10s in each of his last four starts at the Masters and it is the fifth time in his last seven starts on the PGA TOUR that he’s held at least a share of the 54-hole lead.
Yet, as they it is not over till the final putt is drained. Ed Snead lost a five-shot lead in 1979, Greg Norman blew away a six-shot advantage and more to lose to Nick Faldo in 1996, Rory McIlroy collapsed on the back nine and carded a final-round 80 in 2011 and Jordan Spieth quadruple-bogeyed the 12th hole to lose in 2016.
Johnson, the reigning FedExCup champion raced away from a five-way share of the lead with an explosive start as he was 4 under through four holes and never took his foot off the gas till he handed in a card of 65 and tied the 54-hole Masters record. And he is four clear.
This is third time Johnson takes a solo lead into the final round of a major, along with two other majors where he was tied for the lead. His only major was the 2016 U.S. Open when he came from behind. Most recently, he had a one-shot lead at Harding Park in the PGA Championship this summer, closed with a 68 and lost to a 64 by Collin Morikawa.
His 16-under 200 ties the record set by Jordan Spieth in 2015, when he went on to a four-shot victory over Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson.
Chasing Johnson are two Masters rookies. Sungjae Im, the amazing ball-striker from South Korea who won his first PGA TOUR title two weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down, birdied the last hole for 68 and Mexican Abraham Ancer saved par on the 18th for a 69. They were at 12-under 204, along with Cameron Smith of Australia, who opened with 12 pars before running off three straight birdies and scrambling his way home to a 69.
Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm had their chances but made mistakes. Rahm nearly topped his second shot on the par-5 eighth and hit his next one off a tree and into the bushes on his way to a double bogey. Thomas sailed his second shot over the 15th green and into the water, making bogey on a par 5 where he was hoping to make up ground. They also bogeyed the 18th hole. Thomas shot 71, Rahm had a 72.
Defending champion Tiger Woods will be around Sunday to present the green jacket. Woods was 4 under through 10 holes to start the Masters, and he picked up only one more shot over the next 44 holes. He finished off a 71 in the second round, had a 72 in the third round and was 11 shots behind.
Johnson has 23 PGA TOUR wins, including one major at the 2016 U.S. Open, but he has lost big leads a few times. At the 2017 World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions, Johnson shot 77 and became the second player in TOUR history to lose a six-shot 54-hole lead.
“I put myself in the situation a lot of times,” he said. “I know what it takes. I know how I respond in this situation. I’m very comfortable with having the lead going into tomorrow.”
If. Johnson wins he would be the first world No. 1 to win the Masters since Tiger Woods in 2002.
The scoring has been low all week. The 36-hole cut Saturday morning was at even-par 144, the lowest in Masters history, yet another record this year.