Hawaii suits Johnson's driving game

LOS ANGELES • A short memory can be advantageous in golf while a long game certainly helps.

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson showcased both on Saturday when he took a two-shot lead at the PGA Tour Tournament of Champions in Hawaii on Saturday.

He holed out for an eagle to highlight a seven-under round of 66 that included six birdies to give himself a 16-under 203 on the Plantation Course at Kapalua on Maui.

He was two strokes ahead of fellow American Brian Harman, the overnight co-leader who carded a four-under 69 for 205.

The last time Johnson held the 54-hole lead was the HSBC Champions in Shanghai in October.

He had led by six after three rounds, but stumbled to a closing-round 77 to finish tied for second behind Justin Rose.

Johnson had forgotten about blowing that lead until he was reminded by reporters on Saturday, but said he had moved on from that "fluke day" when he was still getting comfortable with new irons.

Now that he has had more time to practise with them, he is looking forward to a different outcome.

"I hit a lot of great iron shots but the big key for me is the driver," said the 33-year-old, who is tied with compatriot Justin Thomas for first in the field in driving distance (296 yards) through 54 holes.

Johnson just missed a hole-in-one at the 382-yard par-four sixth, where he managed only par.

But the 2016 US Open champion, who started the day one stroke behind Harman and Australian Marc Leishman, did have three birdies on the front nine before his only bogey of the day at 11.

He responded with an eagle at the par-four 12th, where he holed out from 72 yards out, with his second shot landing on the green and rolling in.

"I landed my shot perfect, it got on the green and tracked to the hole," he said of the shot, which he landed some 30 yards short of the cup and watched as the ball rolled down the slope and into the hole.

Leishman (76) could not maintain his momentum on Saturday.

He had four bogeys before his only birdie of the day to fall nine off the pace in the 34-player event for last season's tournament winners.

Spain's Jon Rahm was alone in third, matching the best round of the day with a 66 for 207.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 08, 2018, with the headline 'Hawaii suits Johnson's driving game'. Print Edition | Subscribe