Johnson has held this position before and plans to build on his experience.
Not from the 82 he shot at Pebble Beach at the US Open 2010. Not the 12-foot three putt on a bumpy 18th green that cost him at Chambers Bay. Not even the one-shot lead he lost three months ago at Harding Park. They were among four times he had at least a share of the 54-hole lead in a major without a conversion.
He talks about the last three days at Augusta National. It was a masterful performance.
“If I can play like I did today I think it will break that streak,” Johnson said on Saturday. “Tomorrow is only 18 holes of golf. I need to come out and play solid. I feel like I’m rocking really well. If I can keep giving myself a lot of birdie looks, I think I’m going to have a great day.
A third round that started with 10 players separated by a blow has turned into a one-man show.
The world’s No.1 player looked all over the place with a 7-under 65, walking away with the eagle and two birdies in the first four holes, nearly digging a corner of the seventh fairway, handling par 5 to l ‘back. nine with two-putt birdies and the last 30 holes without a bogey.
He was 16 under 200, tying the record of 54 holes Jordan Spieth set in 2015 when he won the Masters by four strokes over Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose.
The cast of the challengers is not as experienced.
Two of them are Masters rookies. Sungjae Im, South Korea’s supreme ball forward who won his first PGA Tour title two weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic closed the golf course in the spring, made the final hole for 68. Abraham Ancer, of the Mexico saved par on the 18th for a 69.
Cameron Smith of Australia, who had 12 straight parts at 12 Under 204, joined them before winning three straight birdies and then finishing with three scrambled pars for a 69.
“He’s been there a few times already and No. 1 in the world,” Ancer said. “I think he’s exactly where he wants to be. We know we have to go low, and that’s it. It’s very simple. If DJ comes out and plays really solid like today, it will be next to impossible to catch him. Everything that needs to be done there has to be pretty special.
Still, there is enormous pressure on Johnson because of his history. He didn’t convert two 54-hole leaders, nor did he win at two majors where he shared the 54-hole lead. His only major was the 2016 US Open when he rallied four shots behind at Oakmont.
“Anyone with a four-stroke lead should win,” Smith said. “There will be a lot of boys shooting tomorrow.”
Attacking the flags is what Augusta National allowed in November, with rain earlier in the week and warm, calm conditions that kept the turf soft and vulnerable.
Johnson, who had to be absent from two tournaments after testing positive for coronavirus a month ago, has still entered the Masters after winning twice, finishing second on three occasions and tying sixth at the US Open .
“I’m very comfortable having the lead tomorrow. I’ve been in this situation many times, ”Johnson said. “I can’t wait to take on the challenge. It will always be a difficult day. I’m going to have to play well if I want to get there.
Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm have only had their chances of making untimely mistakes. Rahm nearly passed his second shot on the eighth par-5, which he attributed to mud on his golf ball, and hit the next one out of a tree and into the bushes on his way to a double bogey.
Thomas made his second shot over the 15th green and into the water, bogeying a par 5 where he hoped to catch up. Both bogeyed the 18th hole. Thomas shot 71, Rahm had a 72.
When asked to describe his day, Rahm didn’t mince words.
“Seriously? How would I describe? Pretty awful, ”he says.
The final round start times have been moved to end at 3 p.m. so CBS can honor their NFL contract, and it will be lines on both tees. And like all week, and all year, there won’t be any roars to add to the pressure.
“Unfortunately for all of us who pursue DJing is that there are no fans or nothing to make this moment even more difficult, to have the buzz, to have adrenaline, to have a little more pressure on him who won’t be here this year, ”Thomas said.
Defending champion Tiger Woods will stay on Sunday to present the green jacket, and he will have to leave his at Augusta National until his return.
Woods had 4 under 10 holes to start the Masters, and he collected just one more stroke over the next 44 holes. He finished with a 71 in the second round on Saturday morning, a 72 in the third round and was 11 shots behind.
US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau was more dizzy than painful. He felt so weird on Thursday night that he had another COVID-19 test to be sure – he came back negative – and that Masters’ betting favorite was in the middle of the pack, 13 shots behind.
The score has been low all week. The 36-hole cut on Saturday morning was par 144, the lowest in Masters history, another update to the club’s record books.
Still ahead of Johnson, there is a chance to set the 72 hole record. All he cares about is a green jacket, and given his past experience, he knows better than to look to the future.