Earlier this year, Dustin Johnson finally got over the major hump at the U.S. Open. If he keeps things going, he may walk away with his first FedEx Cup as well.
Johnson carded a four-under 68 in Saturday's third round at the 2016 BMW Championship to bring his overall score to 18 under, giving him a three-stroke lead over the field with 18 holes to play.
A day after blistering the field with a historic 63, Johnson settled in slowly amid wet conditions before gearing up his game late. Four of his six birdies came on a five-hole stretch from Nos. 14 to 18 as he separated from the field to close the round.
Justin Ray of Golf Channel noted Johnson's propensity for slipping up with 54-hole leads:
Johnson attributed his strong week to his putting performance. He's averaging just 1.49 putts per green in regulation through the first 54 holes, perhaps owing some of that to an equipment change. On Saturday, Johnson revealed the only reason he made the change to a black TaylorMade Spider was to avoid having the same putter as Jason Day.
"I was putting good with it, and right before we were about to tee off on Thursday, I'm like, 'AJ [Austin Johnson], don't you have the same one in black?' And he says, 'Yeah.' And I said, 'Go get it.' I just didn't want to use the same putter Jason was—like, the exact same one. That was really the only reason I changed," he said, per the Associated Press (via the Daily Mail).
Paul Casey sits alone in second place at 15 under. Casey shot a bogey-free 68 on Saturday, utilizing his strong accuracy off the tee to overcome some shaky putting. He and J.B. Holmes, who is alone in third at 14 under, are the only golfers within five strokes of the lead:
"Not much you can do," Casey said, per the AP. "He's got maybe the best attitude in golf. When he gets on his game, maybe the best ball-striker in golf. Maybe the longest. And he showed it today. So, if he keeps doing what he's been doing—what's he averaging, six-under a day?—if he does the same tomorrow, there's no catching him."
Jordan Spieth looked poised to make some noise before faltering late. The former world No. 1 was sitting at 10 under overall and six under on the day after birdieing No. 15. But he carded a pair of frustrating bogeys, including a miss from seven feet on No. 18, to end his day at four under.
Spieth is in a tie for ninth place overall. If that holds, he would drop to seventh place in the FedEx Cup standings heading into the Tour Championship. He's looking to become the first player in history to repeat as the FedEx Cup champion.
“I couldn’t tell you in the last four years at any point in time how many points I’ve had,” he said, per Steve Hummer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I don’t think about that much. If you’re sixth (in points) and win in Atlanta, it would be hard not to win the FedEx Cup. I’m just trying to play a consistent last couple of rounds and gain some momentum.”
Sitting 10 strokes behind Johnson, Spieth would need a lot of help to get back into contention. Even if he were to match Johnson's round of 63 on Sunday, he'd still need the leader to go one over to force a playoff.
Given his first three rounds, it's hard to expect Johnson to be anything but spectacular with a chance to take control in the PGA Tour's playoffs.