Johnson in command despite late blip

11/2/2013 8:01:00 AM
Dustin Johnson  (Getty Images)
Dustin Johnson (Getty Images)
Dustin Johnson carded two double bogeys at Sheshan International but still holds a three shot lead after an enthralling WGC-HSBC Champions third round in Shanghai.

Despite having taken six at the par four tenth, Johnson stood on the 18th tee with his five shot overnight lead in tact thanks to a front nine of 30 for the second day running and four more birdies in succession from the 13th.

However, the big-hitting American then drove into the water down the right-hand side of the par five and found a greenside bunker with his fourth shot before eventually signing for a seven and third round of 66.

At 18 under par, Johnson led by three from defending champion Ian Poulter, who carded a 63, with Ryder Cup team-mate Graeme McDowell a shot further back on 14 under following a 64.

US Open champion Justin Rose, first-round leader Rory McIlroy and Canada's Graham DeLaet were all on 12 under, while Germany's Martin Kaymer was ten under after setting a new course record with a flawless 62.

Poulter, looking to become only the second player after World Number One Tiger Woods to successfully defend a World Golf Championships title, had charged up the leaderboard with five birdies in a row from the third and another on the ninth to be out in 30.

The Englishman also birdied the tenth but Johnson was producing some equally impressive figures, making five birdies in a row from the fifth to match Poulter's outward score.

However, the seven-time US PGA Tour winner then made a complete mess of the tenth, twice seeing his pitch to the green fail to get to the top of a steep slope and roll back to his feet.

His third attempt clattered into the pin and in the end Johnson did well to hole from 12 feet to limit the damage to a double bogey six.

When Poulter then holed from 20 feet for an eagle on the 14th the gap was suddenly one shot, but Johnson responded once more with birdies on the 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th.

“It was another really good day,” said 29 year old Johnson. “I played really well; obviously the two doubles hurt a little bit. 

“To have a three shot lead going into the last day is good, and looking forward to the challenge. I still have to play really well - the guys that are right behind me, they are playing very well too. 

“Making two doubles, there's no excuse for that. Especially the way I'm playing right now, it shouldn't happen.”

Poulter three-putted the 17th for his only bogey of the day but birdied the last to remain firmly in the hunt for the first prize of €1,012,145 in the second event of The Race to Dubai Final Series.

“It was a nice day,” said the 37 year old. “Guys have shot low today; benign weather conditions, not much wind, soft greens, perfect greens to putt on, you've got to make birdies.

“As well as I played, I felt that other guys were still going to make birdies. So I felt like I had to keep pressing.  

“You had to get it inside 15 feet. The greens are so perfect and if you start it on line, it's going to go in. I could see other guys doing exactly the same - Kaymer shot ten under, and I think Dustin had ten birdies - this golf course is giving up a lot of birdies.

McDowell, who hunted down Johnson in the final round at Pebble Beach to win the 2010 US Open Championship, will also fancy his chances after chipping in from the bunker for an eagle two at the 16th.

“I haven't holed a lot of putts, so hopefully I'm saving it for tomorrow,” said the Northern Irishman.

“It’s just nice to be in contention going into tomorrow. I know conditions are going to be fairly similar again tomorrow and I'll have to go low to even finish second here.”