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Johnson seizes PGA Heritage lead but Ireland's Lowry just one behind

A costly back nine saw Lowry drop off the lead but he remains firmly in the mix in South Carolina.

Johnson made his move up the leaderboard on Saturday.
Johnson made his move up the leaderboard on Saturday.
Image: Getty Images

WORLD NUMBER ONE Dustin Johnson, seeking his third victory of the year, fired a three-under par 68 to grab a one-stroke lead after Saturday’s third round of the US PGA Heritage tournament.

Johnson, who shared second in last week’s Masters at nearby Augusta National, stood on 10-under after 54 holes at Harbour Town in Hilton Head, South Carolina, leading Shane Lowry, Ian Poulter and Rory Sabbatini by a single stroke. 

The 34-year-old American won a European Tour event in Saudi Arabia and the WGC Mexico Championship in February but hopes to capture his 21st PGA title in his home state.

“It would be special,” Johnson said. “But there are a lot of guys around. I’m going to have to play really special tomorrow if I want to win.”

One stroke adrift are Lowry, Poulter and Sabbatini, while Americans Patrick Cantlay, Scott Piercy and Trey Mullinax, Taiwan’s Pan S.T, South Korean K.J. Choi and Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo share fifth on eight-under. 

Lowry led after the second round was concluded early on Saturday due to storms that interrupted play Friday, and he stretched the margin to three shots with birdies at the par-5 second and fifth holes and another from 33 feet to close the front nine and stand on 12-under.

But the Clara native found two bunkers at the par-4 13th, water at the par-3 14th and more sand on the par-4 16th on the way to bogeys on each hole that dropped him back as Johnson charged.

Johnson, who moved back atop the rankings after losing the number one spot to Justin Rose last week, sank an eight-foot birdie putt at the second and holed a 19-footer for birdie at the par-4 sixth.

“I feel like I’ve been driving it well,” Johnson said. “That’s a big key around here.”

After answering a bogey at the eighth with a tap-in birdie at the par-4 ninth, Johnson made a crucial par save at the par-4 12th, his tee shot well right of the fairway but a 12-foot par foot rescuing him.

“That was a really nice save,” Johnson said. “That was one of my bad tee shots.”

Johnson followed with an 18-foot birdie putt at the par-4 13th, then holed a 47-footer for birdie at the par-3 14th.

“I was definitely surprised,” Johnson said of his long birdie putt. “I just laughed.”

Johnson was smiling again at the par-5 15th, where he went into a greenside bunker with his second shot but blasted out to 13 feet and sank his birdie putt to seize the lead alone.

But Johnson missed the green on the par-4 16th and par-3 17th on his way to bogeys, missing par putts from nine and five feet respectively.

“The course played very difficult, especially the last three holes with the wind direction we had,” Johnson said. “I hit good putts on 16 and 17 that ended up being bogeys.”

- © AFP, 2019

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