Back-in-form Johnson in flurry of birdies at St Jude

LOS ANGELES • Dustin Johnson, tuning up for the US Open and aiming to regain the world No. 1 ranking, fired a seven-under 63 on Friday to grab the second-round lead at the FedEx St Jude Classic.

He holed out for an eagle and nabbed six birdies as he built a 10-under total of 130 at TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tennessee.

The world No. 2 led fellow Americans Ryan Blaum and Andrew Putnam (both 64) by one shot.

"I feel like I'm playing really well," said Johnson, who lost the No. 1 ranking to Justin Thomas last month after reigning for 64 straight weeks.

"I'm swinging the club well. I know if I can drive it in the fairway I'm going to give myself a good look for birdie. I felt like I did that pretty much all day."

He opened with a birdie at the par-four 10th. After bogeys at the par-four 12th and 13th he bounced back with birdies at the par-three 14th and par-five 16th.

He jump-started his round with an eagle at the par-four first, where he holed out with a wedge from 111 yards. His approach at the second left him less than a foot for birdie, and he added birdies at the par-five third, par-four sixth and par-four ninth - and needed only 24 putts in the round.

"I'm rolling it down the line I'm looking," he said. "If I can get a good read and good speed, they're going to go in."

Brooks Koepka, a week before defending his US Open title, carded 69 to slip five strokes behind Johnson, while Phil Mickelson fell six adrift. Five-time Major winner Mickelson, trying to build momentum towards a US Open title that has so long eluded him, followed up his first-round 66 with a 70.

"It's tough to get the ball on the green if you don't drive it in the fairway," he said. "And around the greens it's tough because the rough is challenging. I made a few bogeys because I struggled with the difficulty around the greens. I didn't really have it today, but I was able to close out the round and get it back to even. I'm in a decent position."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

ST JUDE CLASSIC

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 10, 2018, with the headline 'Back-in-form Johnson in flurry of birdies at St Jude'. Print Edition | Subscribe