Golf: Johnson's hot new putter does job

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson finishing with a flourish – a birdie on the 18th hole in the second round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai. The American took to his new putter immediately with a wonderful nine-under 63 yesterday which gave him a on
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson finishing with a flourish – a birdie on the 18th hole in the second round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai. The American took to his new putter immediately with a wonderful nine-under 63 yesterday which gave him a one-shot halfway lead over Brooks Koepka.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Superb back 9 sets up battle with good friend Koepka but holder Matsuyama struggles on

SHANGHAI • Dustin Johnson switched putters at the last moment and then nailed birdies in his final four holes to seize a one-shot lead at the halfway stage of the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai yesterday.

The world No. 1's spectacular nine-under 63 catapulted him over fellow American and overnight leader Brooks Koepka (68), who hung on for second on 12-under 132 overall. Englishman Justin Rose (68), the Rio Olympic champion, and Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat (70) shared third on 135 at "Asia's Major".

Johnson, who triumphed in Shanghai in 2013 and has won all four prestigious World Golf Championships (WGC), followed up his opening 68 with a sparkling round that started well and got better.

The 33-year-old had a couple of near birdie misses early in his second round, but found his range with back-to-back birdies on the 12th and 13th, then ramped up his challenge to finish with a flourish.

Last year's US Open champion said: "I actually got a putter like about 20 minutes before I teed off, it's a (TaylorMade) Spider, so it's one that I've used before.

"I wasn't really pleased with the one I played with yesterday so the guys here in China made me one.

  • 7 in 9

  • Birdies Dustin Johnson made on his inward nine, missing only on Nos. 11 and 14.

"I got it right before I walked to the tee. I hit a few putts on the practice green with it and I was like, 'Oh, this will work pretty well'.

"Went out and holed a lot of putts today, so kind of like it."

Koepka, whose first Major title came at the US Open in June, stayed in contention at a sunny Sheshan International Golf Club.

The 27-year-old reeled off two birdies on the trot to start the second day much as he finished the first. He is relishing doing battle with Johnson today, when they will be in the same group of players, and intends to make it a miserable weekend for his good friend.

"I have no problem breaking Dustin's heart, I can promise you that. I'm sure he'd say the same thing if he was sitting up here," he told a press conference with a smile.

"We both have a lot of fun off the golf course, but you know, when it comes to golf, I think we both want to kick each other's butts.

"I hope it comes down to Sunday because there's not been a tournament where we've actually competed against each other."

Defending champion Hideki Matsuyama, the world No. 4 from Japan, again failed to fire. He followed up his disappointing opening-round 74 with another 74 as his challenge disintegrated.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

WGC-HSBC CHAMPIONS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 28, 2017, with the headline 'Johnson's hot new putter does job'. Print Edition | Subscribe