Dustin Johnson showed again on Sunday at the 2020 Tour Championships at East Lake Golf Club why he gets to wear the Number 1 badge. Round 4 will probably be smooth swinging for the maestro, unless something extraordinary happens.
Johnson drove the ball wonderfully in Round 3, unlike in the second round.
He hit 11 of 14 fairways (nine more than he could do on Saturday) and finished second in strokes gained off the tee. This led to seven total birdies, a 64 and a runaway train that is not likely to be caught on Monday as the last event of the 2019-20 PGA Tour season ends.
Johnson (now at a spectacular 19-under), who doesn’t have a Tour Championship under his belt yet, will take a 5-stroke lead into Monday's final round on Justin Thomas and Xander Schauffele (who split the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup back in 2017).
They will play with $15 million on the table.The outcome of the Tour Championship will also likely have a major influence on the Player of the Year honors. Johnson will be tough to catch in this final race. He's lost to just two golfers in the last five weeks -- Collin Morikawa at the PGA Championship and Jon Rahm in a playoff last week at the BMW Championship.
With a five-stroke lead and only 18 holes left, it's going to take a major miracle for him to not end up champion. Those trying their best to become front runner are Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele, John Rahm and of course Collin Morikawa.
Can Johnson beat the pack?
At 14-under, Justin Thomas and Xander Schauffele have the biggest chance of changing Johnson’s fortune. Though Thomas missed a 16-inchputt on Sunday in the third round, he did put up a good fight and putt it quite a bit better than he did in either of the first two days.
He'll need some help, or at least better luck if he wants to win. But he remains No. 1 in the field in strokes gained from tee to green. Another good day with the putter, a few sloppy holes from D.J. on the front nine and it's going to be game on for $15 million.
If it were not for the pre-tournament strokes, Xander Schauffele (14-under), would have been the leader of the pack in this tournament. He is absolutely crushing at this golf course. Schauffele shot a 32 on the back nine and has been making everything he's looking at on these greens.
Maybe the only way to beat D.J. is to throw a Thomas-Schauffele combo at him and hope for the best. Four of Jon Rahm’s last five rounds have been remarkable. At 13-under, outlier in the group was a 74 at this event in Round 2 on Saturday but bounced back with a 66 on Sunday by making birdie at each of the last two holes.
He started last week's final round trailing Johnson -- the 54-hole leader -- by three before running him down and beating him in a playoff. This is slightly bigger and will be more difficult to overcome, but Rahm is still alive for what would be his first FedEx Cup trophy.
However, as this season’s golf has proved so far . . . anything can happen, especially at an event like the PGA Tour Championship.