Thursday, March 22, 2018

Dustin Johnson alone atop leaderboard at Tour Championship

ATLANTA — Dustin Johnson is playing better than anyone in the world, and Kevin Chappell can't wait to watch him at the Tour Championship.

Even if that means having to beat him.

Johnson powered down the fairways and occasionally out of brutal rough Friday at East Lake for 3-under 67, giving him a one-shot lead over Chappell and moving him one round closer to the $10 million FedEx Cup prize.

The U.S. Open champion is on a different level at the moment.

Even on a demanding test such as East Lake — only 10 players remain under par — Johnson is hitting his driver long and straight. His wedge game has gone from a weakness to a strength. A new putter is giving him a better feel for alignment.

"The game is never easy. I wish it was," he said. "Obviously, I'm playing good right now. I've got a lot of confidence in my game."

Johnson was at 7-under 203.

Chappell (68) one of two players in the field with no PGA Tour wins, had only one bogey in 36 holes.

Kevin Kisner (70) and Hideki Matsuyama (71) were four shots behind and Rory McIlroy (70) was five back on a course with "the hardest rough we've played in years," according to Phil Mickelson — who, at 6-over 146, was ahead of just two players.

World No. 1 Jason Day withdrew in the middle of a round at the second straight tournament, citing the same nagging back issues. With Day's withdrawal, Johnson clinched the points-based player of the year award.

And with Day out, four players can clinch the FedEx Cup by winning Sunday: Johnson, Paul Casey (tied for fifth), Adam Scott (T-11th) and Patrick Reed (T-19th).

Champions: Scott McCarron birdied five of the first six holes and shot 8-under 62 for a two-shot lead after one round at the Pacific Links Bear Mountain Championship in Victoria, British Columbia.