Dustin Johnson has often, and perhaps a little cruelly, been accused of living in his own world. There couldn’t be such a criticism as he reveled in it on Saturday, however, an ether of day separating him from the chase pack after a formidable third round at the Masters. The world No.1, whose only big win came in 2016, is not enjoying a procession to victory at all, but a day Augusta really woke up – his slippery, skating greens , the greedy, uncut rough – Johnson was an emotionless heavyweight, opening a four-stroke lead as others faded away.
Johnson’s impassive expression, seemingly frozen in the grimace of a coffin bearer, barely told the story in a 65 round where his bullet shot was something akin to a work of art. With a share of the lead overnight, he immediately cleared with an exquisite eagle in second, a 222-yard approach reduced to every three feet. It was a disturbing warning for the pitch, but few were able to heed it. Birdies followed in the third and fourth and he made the turn in 31. Whenever his challengers regained ground he stepped over once more, with birdies on the two par-fives of the last nine that saw Johnson tying Jordan Spieth’s 54-hole record.
And for every flawless step Johnson took, those behind him wavered. Reed, who started the lap just a backstroke, made a disastrous double-bogey in the fifth. Thomas followed the bogeys at 12 and 14 with a disastrous hook in the water. Jon Rahm, who finished his dazzlingly delayed second lap in the morning, succumbed to a comedy of errors in the eighth, overcoming his approach into the trees, from where his punch ricocheted off the middle stump of a pine tree and in the bushes.
Instead, it’s the relatively unproven amounts of Abraham Ancer and Sungjae Im – both newbies to Augusta – and Dylan Frittelli who are closest, but you could hardly expect them to follow suit. rhythm. Johnson was on the song and no one could stifle his beat. A circus has revolved around increasing player distance this week, and while the 36-year-old is certainly one of that pistol breed, it was just as much an exhibition of elegant iron games and with a masterfully subtle touch around the greens.
Of course, Johnson has been here before. The constant drag on his career, although that in itself seems a little silly after 23 PGA Tour wins and £ 50million in prizes, has been his failure to capitalize on the majors. A rare display of nerves has traditionally crept into his rock demeanor, particularly at Pebble Beach in 2010, where a three-stroke lead at the US Open was ceded in the opening half hour on Sunday. He was a Tiger Woods finalist last year, and even without bosses, the course will still be energized today. But if Johnson is able to ward off any doubts, he’ll surely never have a better chance of winning a coveted green jacket.
The only player who even came close to matching him was, in fact, Rory McIlroy. The hopes of the Northern Irishman seemed almost extinct after a dismal opening round. But after what has become an all too familiar curse, came a typically courageous display of resilience. A formidable retaliation on Friday put him pretty much in contention and his momentum continued on Saturday, a 67 putting him at least in the top 10.
There won’t be a repeat of last year’s return to Lazarus, however, for Woods, who woke up at 3:15 a.m. to start preparations for the final stages of his second round. The defending champion wasn’t quite an exhausted force, but he was certainly jaded and moved a bit cautiously as a long day wore on, a par 72 leaving him at -5.
It’s not Woods’ story this time around, but the end is beginning to be written. Johnson has been infallible and there can be no qualms about his firm grip as the final round approaches. With such a dominant lead, he’s fortunate enough to reduce Sunday’s drama to something odd routine, but if history has taught us anything, there are few places so prone to sudden twists of fate. than Augusta.
This weekend get £ 10 free bet with Betfair, when you bet £ 10 on the same multiple game in the Premier League. Conditions: £ 10 minimum on the same game Multiple bet on any EPL match from Friday to Sunday. Free bet valid for 72 hours, awarded for payment of the bet. Excludes cashed bets. General conditions apply.