It looks like Dustin Johnson is about to cut into Tiger Woods’ massive lead of victories in World Golf Championships as he takes a six-stroke lead into the final round in China after shooting a 68 in Round 3 at the HSBC Champions. Johnson is up six on Brooks Koepka and seven on Henrik Stenson. He’ll be paired with Koepka on Sunday just like he was on Saturday.
One of my favorite stats in all of golf involves Woods and WGCs. Big Cat won a boatload of the big money events, so many that it looks less likely that someone will catch his WGC total than that someone will catch Jack Nicklaus’ major championship total of 18. Here is how the WGC race stands right now before the final round of the 2017 WGC-HSBC Champions.
- Tiger Woods: 18
- Dustin Johnson: 5
- Geoff Ogilvy: 3
- Nine players: 2
Johnson started his third round with a bogey and opened his back nine with a double, but he had seven birdies sprinkled in around those two gaffes. His 68 tied for best round of the day just 24 hours after he had the best score in Round 2 by four strokes. He does not look like a golfer who’s going to get caught.
Koepka and Johnson were actually tied on the 8th tee at 15 under, but Koepka made a triple and three more bogeys coming home to fall off the pace.
“I don’t know what happened from 8 on,” said Koepka. “It was kind of very disappointing — very blah. I didn’t really make any putts, like those momentum putts. I didn’t make one of those. Just [have to] play good tomorrow. Make a few putts. Get off to a good start again. I’m getting off to a good start. It’s just kind of the middle stretch where I kind of stalled a little bit. Just got to correct that.”
Johnson, who birdied No. 8 said he wasn’t too worried about what was ailing Koepka.
“When we’re on the golf course, I’m not worried about what anyone else is doing,” said Johnson. “I’ve got enough to worry about with just myself. So it kind of tough to worry about what anyone else is doing. Yeah, it was obviously a pretty big change there. I mean, it was a four-shot swing between me and Brooks. It was definitely a turning point in the round for me to take the lead or get a bigger lead.”
Wind is expected in Shanghai for Round 4, which means that Johnson should be able to shoot a mistake-free 71 or 72 and win fairly comfortably. He provided a bit of foreshadowing for that plan on Saturday as he laid up on the 18th hole for par.
Don’t expect that all day in Round 4, but do expect Johnson to cut into Woods’ massive WGC lead. He can get one-third of the way there with a win in China on Sunday, and in the process he can extend the crazy WGC streak he and Hideki Matsuyama have going on. Those two have won each of the last five WGC events dating back to the 2016 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. That number should be six ahead of the 2018 WGC-Mexico Championship.
For Johnson on Sunday, as is usually the case, the simplest route between two points will likely be the best. He knows that, and he knows that everyone else knows that, too.
“Tomorrow, going in, I’m not going to change anything,” he said. “Same game plan. You know, play the golf course just how I’ve been playing it.”
After a 68-63-68 start, that seems like it will be plenty.