Saturday, May 26, 2018

Late double bogey drops Dustin Johnson into tie for Tour Championship lead

ATLANTA — Dustin Johnson had a reasonable lie in the rough and only a few pine tree branches blocking his path to the 17th green. Neither seemed like a problem until he played the wrong shot, clipped the tree and wound up with double bogey Saturday in the Tour Championship.

It was an example of how one hole can change everything at East Lake.

And it's why the final round of the PGA Tour season suddenly has more scenarios than Johnson cares to consider.

Johnson recovered with birdie from the bunker on the par-5 18th for 1-under 69, giving him a share of the lead with Kevin Chappell (68) going into the last round that will determine who wins the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup.

For the first time since 2009, there's a chance it won't be the same player.

"There's a lot of scenarios that could happen," Johnson said. "But yeah, I'm still going to go out and try to shoot as low a score as possible."

Johnson, who is at 8-under 202 overall, only has to win or finish second alone to claim the $10 million bonus as the FedEx Cup champion.

Rory McIlroy, who has gone 28 holes without bogey at East Lake, had three birdies over his last six holes for 66 and was two shots behind. If he were to win the Tour Championship and Johnson finished in a two-way tie for second or worse, McIlroy would claim the FedEx Cup.

"It would just be great to try to win the Tour Championship, and if the chips fall my way, then so be it," McIlroy said.

The winner of the Tour Championship has won the FedEx Cup every year since 2009, when Phil Mickelson won the tournament and Tiger Woods the FedEx Cup.

Johnson, who entered the round with a one-shot lead over Chappell, led by four after three straight birdies on the front nine. He made few mistakes: a three-putt from 70 feet on No. 13, a missed fairway on the next hole, enough that his ball was buried so deep even Johnson and his power couldn't advance more than about 135 yards.

It was the 17th hole that reshaped the tournament.

Johnson tried to play a fade from a flyer lie in the rough, and the ball came out high and hit a branch, leaving him in more rough about 60 yards short of the green. He put that in the bunker, blasted out to 6 feet and missed the bogey putt.

Chappell rolled in a 10-foot birdie putt for a three-shot swing and had the lead, only for Johnson to catch him on No. 18.

Chappell, a runnerup three times this season who has never won on the PGA Tour, has made one bogey in 54 holes this week. His next chance at a breakthrough victory is to face golf's best player at the moment (Johnson), with McIlroy and Ryan Moore (66) two shots behind.

CHAMPIONS: Scott McCarron eagled the par-5 12th and shot 5-under 66 to maintain a two-stroke lead in the Pacific Links Bear Mountain Championship in Victoria, British Columbia. McCarron had 14-under 128 total.