The ultimate gap at East Lake introduced two unusual sights Saturday on the Tour Championship.
First, Rory McIlroy hit a shot that toppled out of thick tough proper into the water in entrance of him, a distance laser cameras estimated at 85 ft, eight inches, not accounting for the way far it sank to the underside.
Then, Dustin Johnson reached his drive and will see your entire golf ball within the grass. It was within the first reduce, positive, however a aid contemplating he did not hit a fairway over the ultimate three hours.
It was a uncommon inexperienced gentle for Johnson, and he hit 5-iron to 30 ft for a two-putt birdie and an even-round 70, permitting to flee with a one-shot lead over Sungjae Im on the midway level of the chase for the FedEx Cup and the $15 million prize.
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Johnson headed straight to the vary to strive to determine why he hit solely two fairways, although he was glad to have so few possibilities and nonetheless keep in entrance.
“Two totally different golf programs should you’re enjoying from the green or enjoying from the tough,” Johnson stated. “Taking part in from the green you’ll be able to assault the course, you’ll be able to shoot a great rating. Taking part in from the place I did, it is not a lot enjoyable. However I managed my sport fairly nicely, and happy with the rating that I shot, particularly the way in which I drove the ball.”
McIlroy additionally shrugged off his shot, through which he tried to do an excessive amount of with a gnarly lie, not a lot to recover from the water however a bunker on the fitting facet. It price him a bogey for a 71 that left him 5 behind, although he might see a much bigger image.
“It would not appear like I will lose any floor right this moment anyway, which is a few kind of comfort,” he stated.
Tight on the prime
That may have been the perfect take after a second spherical stuffed with birdies and blunders. The subsequent 36 holes are all about alternative for the 9 participant separated by simply 5 photographs.
In addition to Johnson has been enjoying — two runner-up finishes and an 11-shot victory in his final three begins — there was an opportunity he might have taken his two-shot lead initially of the match and run away with it.
Johnson, with rounds of 67-70 together with beginning at 10 underneath because the No. 1 seed within the FedEx Cup, was at 13 underneath.
Im, the budding star from South Korea whose sport had gone lukewarm popping out of the three-month shutdown, birdied three of his final 4 holes for a 64 and will likely be within the last group with Johnson.
Xander Schauffele, who gained the Tour Championship as a rookie in 2017, ran off three straight birdies late in his spherical for a 65 and was two photographs behind. One other massive transfer got here from PGA champion Collin Morikawa, whose 66 put him 4 photographs out of the lead.
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Johnson hit the green on the primary and fifth holes — each pars. He nonetheless managed a birdie on No. eight when he drove right into a bunker, got here up wanting the inexperienced and chipped in from 40 ft, each the par 5s and on No. 3, the place he made a 40-footer.
“I really feel like I obtained my two dangerous rounds out of the way in which and I obtained two good ones coming, the place the opposite guys, they’ve shot some good scores,” Johnson stated. “My sport feels good. I’ve nonetheless obtained quite a lot of confidence in all the pieces I am doing. Simply I’ve obtained to hit it within the fairway. That is fairly easy.”
Tough day at East Lake
He wasn’t alone in his struggles.
Justin Thomas pulled inside one shot till he could not convert birdie possibilities after which drove thus far left on the 18th that he needed to pitch out sideways, resulting in bogey and a 71.
Jon Rahm once more was retaining stride with Johnson till he discovered the water off the tee on the par-3 15th and made double bogey, adopted by a wild drive that led to bogey on the 16th. He shot a 74, 9 photographs worse than his opening spherical. That left him 4 photographs behind at 9 underneath.
That is what was so maddening for Thomas, who felt like he was hitting it nicely sufficient from tee to inexperienced. He ranks final within the 30-man subject in placing, which might not shock him.
“I ought to have by no means shot over par right this moment with how nicely I performed,” he stated. “I simply made completely nothing.”
That a lot was evident when his 6-foot par putt swirled out and in of the cup, and Thomas gave it a sarcastic thumbs-up.
Rahm was annoyed as ever, primarily as a result of he could not capitalize when he was within the fairway and felt it was one other spherical at East Lake that might price him. Now, nevertheless, he is nonetheless solely 4 photographs behind with 36 holes remaining and $15 million nonetheless very a lot up for grabs.
“The closest I got here from the fifth gap on to make a birdie was that bunker shot on 18,” he stated of his third shot from behind the inexperienced. “That is the perfect look I had all day. It is simply a type of days. However such as you stated, the mentality is true now we have performed two days of the match. I am 4 again going into the weekend. Something can occur.”
Mackenzie Hughes of Dundas, Ont., carded a 1-under 69 and is tied for 24th place within the subject of 30 golfers.