(REUTERS) - Dustin Johnson launched a 368-yard drive at the second hole for an eagle en route to a four-stroke lead over Rory McIlroy after the third round of the WGC-Mexico Championship on Saturday (Feb 23).
The hot start afforded the world No. 3 golfer the luxury of maintaining a healthy buffer despite a double-bogey at the 10th hole at Club de Golf Chapultepec in Mexico City.
Johnson carded five-under 66 to remain on course for a second win in three years at the World Golf Championships event, and the 20th victory of his PGA Tour career.
The former world No. 1 finished on 16-under 197 for the tournament, while Northern Irishman McIlroy, who led after the opening round, mixed seven birdies with four bogeys for a 68 to stand alone in second place.
Spaniard Sergio Garcia, Americans Patrick Reed and Patrick Cantlay and Australian Cameron Smith were a distant seven strokes back in a share of third.
Tiger Woods had huge problems on the greens, four-putting at the 15th and three-putting the next, to slip 10 strokes off the pace despite a respectable 70.
The PGA Tour confirmed that it was the first time he had put together such a poor display of putting on consecutive holes.
The 14-time Major champion, in his first competitive appearance in Mexico, declined to speak to the media afterwards, something he has done only a handful of times over his career.
Not content to sit on the lead after starting the day two shots clear, Johnson hoisted his drive over a clump of trees at the par-four second and was rewarded when his ball landed near the front of the green and trundled to near tap-in range.
He made a complete mess of the par-four 10th, however, with his second shot from the rough striking a tree branch and ricocheting to the edge of a line of bushes, from where he found another tree with his third shot.
"I misjudged the lie a little bit," he said of his second shot.
"It shot straight up in the air, hit the tree in front of me and I ended up making a double but I didn't let it bother me because I knew I'm playing well and there were plenty of holes I could make birdie on coming down the stretch.
"I'm driving it well, really controlling distance with the irons. I feel good everywhere."
McIlroy acknowledged it would probably be tough to catch the in-form Johnson, who two weeks ago won a European Tour event in Saudi Arabia.
"I battled," the four-time Major champion said. "Probably didn't hit it as well as the first couple of days, but I hung in there.
"It was hard to stay patient but I feel like my patience was rewarded. I'm still four behind, it's going to be tough, especially against D.J. who's arguably the best player in the world."