By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
ATLANTA -- As he was playing the 10th hole at East Lake Golf Club during Saturday's third round of the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola, Dustin Johnson trailed Henrik Stenson by a distant nine strokes.
And just to be clear, Johnson was in second place at the time.
That's how dominant Stenson was over the first 45 holes of the FedExCup Playoffs finale. In fact, the Swede has owned the front nine at East Lake, racking up 13 birdies on that stretch alone, and he made the turn in command at 14 under par.
The back nine, though, has been a different story. Stenson bogeyed three of his last five holes on Saturday to finish at 11 under and Johnson was able to close the gap with a 67 that included a 33 on the back nine.
"Honestly, I didn't (know)," Johnson said when asked about Stenson's once-massive lead. "... I was just trying to get as many looks at birdie as I could and just trying to hole it."
Johnson, who won the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions, came to East Lake as the last man into the start-studded field of 30. He has a shot at the $10 million bonus but he must earn the come-from-behind victory and have six other scenarios play out.
"I haven't gone that far," Johnson dead-panned when someone mentioned that he was still alive for the big payout. Mathematically, at least.
"I mean, there's so many different ways they could do it, but I think the way they're doing it is good," the big-hitting South Carolinian said. "It's worked pretty well the last few years. It kind of gives everyone a chance.
"So I kind of like it, but I'm going to just go out, do whatever I can to win the golf tournament or to put some pressure on Henrik and see what happens."
Johnson said he felt better about his game this week than he did at the BMW Championship when he three-putted "like 10 times or something." He put in some extra time on the practice green after getting to Atlanta and hit the range with his swing coach, Butch Harmon.
The results were almost immediate. Johnson is one of just four players to shoot in the 60s in each of the first three rounds. He went bogey-free on Friday in posting a 67 and made four birdies and dropped just one shot to par on Saturday.
"When I did miss the fairway, it was just off," Johnson said. "It was on a hole where I could get it on the green from the rough. So it was just a good solid stretch of golf. ... I'm just hitting the ball solid, hitting it where I'm looking.
"If I can keep driving it straight, then I'm going to give him a run tomorrow."