Golf: Late birdies lift Johnson at Doral

Dustin Johnson timed his run nicely to earn a two-stroke lead after the third round at the $8.5 million Cadillac Championship on Saturday.

Miami: Dustin Johnson timed his run nicely to earn a two-stroke lead after the third round at the $8.5 million Cadillac Championship on Saturday.

The long-hitting American birdied the 16th and 17th holes on his way to the day’s best score, a seven-under-par 65 in a light breeze at Doral’s Blue Monster.

Johnson posted a 13-under 203 total, but with seven others -- including Englishman Luke Donald -- within three strokes, he acknowledged he would have to go low on Sunday to have a chance of securing his first World Golf Championships victory.

“It’s going to take another good round,” he said. “I played well today, drove it well, putt it well, hit the ball well, so I’m going to have to do that again tomorrow.”

This is Johnson’s fourth 54-hole lead in a US PGA Tour-sanctioned tournament but, interestingly, his first at any course other than Pebble Beach.

World No. 14 Johnson, a three-time winner on the US tour, was not overly satisfied with his first two rounds, so he worked on some things with coach Butch Harmon Saturday morning.

“The first two days I didn’t really drive it that great,” he said. “I wasn’t hitting the type of shots I wanted so we worked on the driver a little bit this morning and got that going really well.”
Johnson led by two strokes from Donald and Americans Matt Kuchar and Nick Watney, with Australian Adam Scott, Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy, Italian Francesco Molinari and American Hunter Mahan three behind.

Mahan led for 12 holes but faltered the down stretch, playing the final six holes in two-over, running up four bogeys and two birdies.

World No. 3 Donald won the previous WGC event only three weeks ago, so he’s brimming with confidence.

“I’m playing very good golf right now, some of the best I’ve ever played,” he said after a 66.

“The first two days I played just as well as today. I just struggled a little bit on the greens.”

Even if Donald wins on Sunday, he will not be tempted to ride his hot streak. Instead, he plans to take three weeks off to prepare for the Masters.

If the galleries following the leaders seemed somewhat sparse, perhaps that’s because many fans left after watching Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, who played together for the third successive day.
They finished soon after the leaders teed off and neither was particularly impressive, with Woods shooting 70, Mickelson 72.

But at least Woods managed to make solid contact with most of his shots. On Friday, his tee shot at the par-four No. 2 went only 122 yards, while he skied his drive at No. 14 only 188 yards, although at least his ball landed in the fairway.

Woods did not speak to the media on Saturday. Eleven shots behind the leaders, he probably figured there was nothing to say.

World No. 1 Martin Kaymer also struggled on Saturday, shooting 74 to plunge seven shots off the pace.

“It was a difficult day,” the German said. “I’m not really thinking about the win.”

Bureau Report

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