Dustin Johnson has been in this position before. But heading into Sunday with the lead hasn’t fared well in the past for the long-hitting 30 year old. However, he’s likely learned from his previous mishaps and perhaps he’ll take that into the final round at Chambers Bay.
Johnson held the 54-hole lead in the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. And it turned out to be quite the disaster. After entering the final round with a cushion of three strokes, Johnson crumbled with an 82, finishing in a tie for eighth. However, it was understandable that nerves got to him and he made some costly mistakes early in the round.
The bad memories continued during the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits a few months later.
While heading into tournament’s final hole, Johnson made a controversial rules violation — the bunker-not-a-bunker debacle — in the final round, after grounding his club in in what was deemed to be a bunker before his second shot, which led to a two-stroke penalty. That cost him a spot in a playoff and a possible major title.
As if two nightmarish tournaments weren’t bad enough, Johnson made another huge mistake at the 2011 British Open. Heading into Sunday, playing in the final group and only two strokes off the lead, he picked the wrong club for a tough shot. The resulting shot sailed out of bounds, leading to a double-bogey and a second-place finish.
Although his past haunts him, who says this year isn’t different? After all, experience counts for something.
“I’ve been in the situation a few times so I know how to handle myself,” said Johnson. “I know what it takes to get it done. And tomorrow [I] just need to go out there and focus one shot at a time. And we’ll see what happens.”
Johnson’s third round included five birdies, three bogeys and one double for a total of 33 on the front nine and 37 on the back. He also hit 14 of 14 fairways, a career first.
“I thought I played really well today,” said Johnson. “Even par out there this afternoon is a good score. And I thought I played solid, hit a lot of good golf shots. I’m right where I want to be. I’m in position.”
Johnson opened the tournament with a five-under 65 and shot a second-round 71. Many credit his success to his massive length, however Johnson doesn’t count out his putting.
“I feel like I’m putting it well. Hit some good putts,” said Johnson. “It’s just sometimes they go in, sometimes they don’t. If I keep swinging well and keep putting well, it will be right there come Sunday.”