Dustin Johnson turned in his best performance of the 2021 U.S. Open on Saturday with a 68 that moved his overall score to one under par in San Diego, California.
The world's top-ranked player came into the third round trailing the leaders by seven shots. He continued his recent dominance on the front nine with two more birdies today.
If not for a brutal stretch on the back nine in the second round, Johnson could have found himself among the leaders at this point. He hit five bogeys during that stretch to card a 40 in those nine holes.
In the 45 holes outside of that stretch, Johnson has played the Torrey Pines South Course at six under.
Johnson started his third round on a high note with a birdie on the 457-yard par four.
After the strong opening, Johnson did make things difficult for himself frequently throughout the round. He followed up a tee shot on No. 2 that landed in the rough by hitting his second shot over the green, though he was able to salvage par.
Johnson hit fairway bunkers on the fourth and fifth holes that had the potential to derail him in the early going. Instead, he was able to salvage par both times. The 36-year-old had a 60-foot birdie putt on No. 5 that stopped just short of the hole.
Teeing off on the 470-yard seventh hole, Johnson set himself up nicely with a 325-yard drive down the middle of the fairway. He made a birdie from six feet out to get back to even par for the tournament.
Following a run of five straight pars, Johnson ran into his first significant problem of the day on hole No. 13. The South Carolina native had to settle for a bogey after missing a 15-foot par putt.
The 17th was big for Johnson because it ended a run of 13 straight holes on the back nine without a birdie.
Heading onto the 533-yard 18th hole, Johnson was able to cut loose off the tee. His first shot landed in the fairway after traveling 330 yards. His second shot put him on the green with a 30-foot putt for eagle.
Even though Johnson was unable to convert for eagle, he did finish the day with another birdie.
The green is where Johnson did most of his best work in the third round. He only hit five of 14 fairways and got on the green in regulation 50 percent of the time, but he made up for it by needing just 24 total putts and gaining 4.71 strokes on the green.
If Johnson can clean up his long game Sunday, he could potentially finish the tournament inside the top 10 for the second consecutive year.