Johnson missed just three fairways and birdied all but three holes. That led to a five-stroke lead over Justin Thomas and Xander Sc Chaudele to end Labor Day in East Lake.
“He showed what he can do,” said ScHotele. “If he does what he normally does, it will be almost impossible to catch him. ”
No one was playing better heading into the FedEx Cup final and Johnson showed no signs of slowing down. He was 19 under par, his fourth consecutive event holding at least some of the 54-hole lead.
He converted one of them to an 11-stroke victory two weeks ago at TPC Boston. He lost to a 65 by Collin Morikawa in the PGA Championship and a 65-foot playoff putt by Jon Rahm last week at Olympia Fields.
Now only four players have a reasonable chance of catching it.
ScHotele, a big game player who won the Tour championship three years ago, lost just one shot out of the top nine and finished with a 10-foot bird putt for a 67 that place in the final group with Johnson.
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Thomas missed a normal 16-inch putt on the 10th hole in which he was not reckless, rebounded with a 25-foot bird putt on the toughest par 3 at East Lake, and made two more birdies for a 66.
They were 14 cents.
»DJ is clearly playing well. It wasn’t easy today, ”said Thomas. “It’s still East Lake. But anything can happen around this course. You can shoot 63 or 64 and you can shoot 73 or 74 very easily. I just need to hope that tomorrow is my 63 or 64. ”
Jon Rahm played without a bogey, but only a pair of birds at the end made him feel like he was having a better day with his 66. He was six shots behind, while Morikawa rallied with five birdies. over the last nine to save a tough start for a 67. He was seven years behind.
Daniel Berger also had a 64, but he didn’t catch any ground on Johnson who was nine behind. Also at 10 under was Sungjae Im, who performed in the final group with Johnson and must have wondered what hit him. Im shot 72.
The FedEx Cup has been on Johnson’s mind ever since he squandered a big chance to win it in 2016. He entered the final round that year tied for the lead and couldn’t find a fairway. , closing with a 73. He still had. a chance to win the FedEx Cup when it was points based. Only one player could have beaten him that day and that was Rory McIlroy, who landed a fairway shot on the 16th for Eagle and then won the three-way playoffs.
McIlroy won’t be in the mix this year. He had to birdie in the 18th par 5 for a 70 and was 11 shots behind.