Dustin Johnson was cruising along Saturday in the Mexico Championship until one swing put him in a bad spot, and the next shot made it even worse.
One minute he was leading by six shots. Two holes later, he was leading by two.
For all that went wrong, Johnson knew everything was right with his game. There was no need to panic, and he didn’t.
Johnson responded from his double bogey on the 10th hole with two consecutive birdies. He made two more birdies sandwiched around an up-and-down par from 105 yards, and he wound up with a 5-under-par 66 that gave him a four-shot lead over Rory McIlroy going into the final round in the World Golf Championships event in Mexico City.
“I knew I was playing well, so I didn’t really let it bother me,” Johnson said. “I felt like I was swinging good and I knew I could make quite a few birdies coming in. So it was one of those things where it was unfortunate, but I felt like I kept my focus and played really solid coming in.”
The 10th hole was his first score worse than par at Chapultepec Golf Club this week. And it was his last of the day.
Photo: Hector Vivas / Getty Images
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McIlroy, suddenly back in the game, could not get any closer and had to settle for a 68.
“It’s going to be tough, especially against D.J., who is arguably the best player in the world,” McIlroy said. “So I’m going to have to go out there and just play a good round of golf, and hopefully that’s good enough.”
Johnson was at 16-under 197. No one else was closer than seven shots off the lead.
Tiger Woods pulled within four shots after Johnson’s blunder, but his hopes ended on the greens.
Woods had a 5-iron from the middle of the fairway on the par-5 15th, put it into a bunker, blasted out weakly to 25 feet and four-putted for a double bogey, with the last three putts from just outside 3 feet.
He followed that with a three-putt bogey on the 16th, and a birdie on the final hole gave him a 70. Woods, who hit 16 greens in regulation, was 10 shots behind and in no mood to speak to anyone after the round.
This will be the sixth time that Johnson has a lead of at least three shots going into the final round on the PGA Tour, which doesn’t include the four-shot lead he had at Pebble Beach in 2009 when the last round eventually was called off because of rain.
He won four of them, losing a three-shot lead at Pebble in the 2010 U.S. Open, and a six-shot lead at the HSBC Champions late in 2017.
PGA Tour: Aaron Baddeley shot a 6-under 66 to improve to 12-under 204 for a one-stroke lead over Nate Lashley in the Puerto Rico Open in Rio Grande.
LPGA Tour: Two-time champion Amy Yang of South Korea shot a 6-under 66 and Australian Minjee Lee shot 67 as they shared a two-shot lead at 15-under 201 after the third round of the LPGA Thailand in Chonburi.
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sports/golf/article/Dustin-Johnson-overcomes-tree-trouble-for-4-shot-13640015.php.