World No. 1 Dustin Johnson survives wild day to maintain Tour Championship lead
Well, Dustin Johnson didn’t in Saturday’s second round of the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club. Although it’s been said over and over that if one is to be successful on this track, one needs to find the fairways, the world No. 1 kept his lead in the finale of the FedEx Cup Playoffs despite hitting just two of 14 fairways on Saturday and just seven the first two rounds.
Somehow, though, out of the nasty rough that rims the fairways at East Lake, Johnson was able to fashion an even-par 70 in the second round and remain 13 under with the staggered scoring format in use this week. He leads Sungjae Im by one shot heading into Sunday’s third round.
Im, by the way, hit 10 of 14 fairways en route to a 64, the lowest round of the day.
“It was a tough day on the course, but managed to scrape it around pretty good,” Johnson said. “Golf course is two different golf courses if you’re playing from the fairway or playing from the rough.
“Playing from the fairway you can attack the course. You can shoot a good score. Playing from where I did, it’s not so much fun. But I managed my game pretty well, and pleased with the score that I shot, especially the way I drove the ball.”
Johnson did have his moments – he made a 37-footer for birdie on three, a 31-footer for par on the fourth and chipped in from 45 feet on the eighth.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) September 5, 2020
“I feel like I got my two bad rounds out of the way and I got two good ones coming,” Johnson said. “My game feels good. I’ve still got a lot of confidence in everything I’m doing. Just I’ve got to hit it in the fairway. That’s pretty simple.”
Two shots back after a 65 is Xander Schauffele, who won the Tour Championship here in 2017, tied for seventh the following year and finished second last year. Another shot back is Justin Thomas, who said he played “miles better” than his 71 would indicate. Four shots back are Collin Morikawa (65), Tyrrell Hatton (66) and Jon Rahm, who was tied for the lead after the first round and at one point reached 14 under before sliding way back with three bogeys and a double in his last 10 holes as he shot 74.
“It’s one of those days I can’t escape here,” Rahm said. “That’s been my downfall pretty much every time I come. I can’t escape the one day where just nothing goes right, and I can’t really post a score.”
Johnson and Rahm – the top 2 players in the world – were putting some distance between themselves and the field in the early going as Johnson reached 15 under with three birdies in his first eight holes and Rahm moved to 14 under with his birdie on the fifth.
The cruelest of cruel. pic.twitter.com/pTiovxMpe3
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) September 5, 2020
Then both went backward, with Johnson making three bogeys in a seven-hole stretch and Rahm having his problems, and the top of the leaderboard bunched up.
Johnson two-putted the final hole for birdie to gain his advantage.
And Im got back in it by getting back to being Im.
“I honestly wasn’t feeling very confident the last few weeks. I feel like it’s all coming back to me now,” he said. “I’m having a lot of good momentum and I hope to keep it going for the next two days.
“I haven’t been swinging the ball like I’ve been wanting to the last few weeks. Starting last week though, my swing started to feel a lot better and I was hitting the ball similar to how I was hitting it before the quarantine. That allowed me to play with more freedom and consistency.”
That’s Johnson’s goal coming Sunday and Monday. If he does start finding more fairways, he’s going to be hard to chase down.
“I still feel like I’m swinging my irons really well. I’m putting and chipping it pretty good. Got a lot of confidence in that part of my game. I just need to get it in the fairway a little bit more here the next two days,” said Johnson, who spent time on the range immediately after the round. “It wasn’t like I was hitting drives that I’ve never seen before or anything. You know, just the setup was a little bit off. But this golf course, obviously the fairways are narrow. It’s tough to hit them.
“But if you can hit it in the fairway, the golf course is right there for the taking.”