A small change helped DJ take control of the TOUR ChampionshipStanding closer to the ball has him closer to his first FedExCup
September 06, 2020
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
Dustin Johnson’s Round 3 highlights from TOUR Championship
ATLANTA – Dustin Johnson has a gift for making this maddening game seem so simple, so it was fitting that the fix for his wayward ball-striking was an easy one.
He was standing too far from the ball. That’s it.
"I felt like I was swinging well. The setup was just a hair off,” he said. “I was just hitting the driver a little bit towards the toe, and obviously when you hit it off the toe it does not like to cut.”
That small change to Johnson’s setup was all he needed to separate himself from the field at the TOUR Championship.
Johnson shot 64 on Saturday to take a five-shot lead into the season’s final round. Xander Schauffele (67) and Justin Thomas (66) are tied for second at 14 under par.
Johnson’s 64 matched the low round of the week.
Now, Johnson is just 18 holes from his first FedExCup. It’s one of the few things missing from a resume that already has him destined for the World Golf Hall of Fame.
“To be the FedExCup champion is something that I want to do,” Johnson said. “It's something that I want on my resume when I quit playing golf.”
A win tomorrow would be the 23rd of his PGA TOUR career. It would be his seventh in the FedExCup Playoffs, two more than anyone else. He also has a major and six World Golf Championships.
He started this week with a two-shot lead but staying atop the leaderboard has been anything but easy. Jon Rahm caught Johnson after the first round. Starting Sunday, the top seven players on the leaderboard were separated by just four shots.
Now only three players are within a half-dozen shots of him. Rahm is in fourth place at 13 under par.
Johnson could leave East Lake as the consensus top player in the game. He’s already No. 1 in the world ranking. Winning the FedExCup also would make him the favorite to win the PGA TOUR Player of the Year Award for the second time in his career. It was an honor he won in 2016, as well.
The TOUR Championship would be his third win of the year.
Johnson started this season on the sidelines after knee surgery. Then play was interrupted by a pandemic. His win at the Travelers Championship in June was his first in 490 days, matching the longest winless drought of his career.
Dustin Johnson’s winning highlights from the Travelers Championship
He struggled in his next two starts, shooting 80-80 at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide and withdrawing from the 3M Open after a tough start.
He’s responded with some of the best golf of his career, however.
This is the fourth consecutive start where Johnson has held the 54-hole lead. He’s led entering the final round of all three FedExCup Playoffs events and the PGA Championship, where he finished second.
“I’m comfortable in the position I’m in,” he said. “Even the two Sundays where I didn't win, I felt like I played really solid rounds. Just a couple guys played a little bit better.
“Tomorrow is more of the same. I just need to go out and focus on what I'm doing and try and shoot the lowest score I can.”
This is the second time Johnson has taken a five-shot lead into the final round in this year’s FedExCup Playoffs. He also did it two weeks ago at the Playoffs opener, THE NORTHERN TRUST. A Sunday 63 at TPC Boston gave him an 11-shot victory and the second-lowest score in PGA TOUR history.
He’s potentially one improbable putt from a clean sweep of the three Playoffs events. Rahm holed a 66-footer on the first hole of their playoff at the BMW Championship.
Johnson struggled in the first two rounds at East Lake, though. He was last in the field in driving accuracy through two rounds, hitting just 25% of the fairways. He hit more fairways Sunday than in the first two rounds combined.
“If I'm driving it in the fairway, the game is much easier,” Johnson said. “It's never easy, but the game is much easier if you do drive it in the fairway.”
He had seven birdies in the third round, against just a single bogey. If he can play like this again Monday, he may not need to work too hard on Labor Day.
“If he does what he normally does, it's going to be almost impossible to catch him,” Schauffele said. “If I birdie the first three holes it's not going to faze him. It's DJ.”
Johnson is one day closer to his first FedExCup. All because he started standing closer to the ball.