NORTON, Mass. – Dustin Johnson arrived at the TPC Boston this week, headed to the practice range and then looked at his swing coach.
“He said, ‘Bro, what am I supposed to be working on again?’” Claude Harmon said Saturday as he watched his pupil set another personal record in The Northern Trust.
Johnson isn't doing much wrong at the moment, a daunting prospect to the guys trying to chase him. His birdie-eagle finish gave Johnson a 7-under 64 and stretched his lead to five shots over Harris English and Scottie Scheffler.
The finish would have come in handy the day before. Johnson was an astounding 11-under par through 11 holes Friday and had the golf world curious if he would go as low as 57 to set the PGA Tour record. Instead, he finished with seven straight pars for a 60, his best ever but not what it could have been.
Johnson put that behind him and looked just as good. Instead of the fast start, it was a big finish. He rolled in a 20-foot birdie on the 17th, and then holed a 40-footer up a ridge and down toward the hole for eagle on the par-5 18th.
That put him at 22-under 191, his lowest 54-hole by three shots.
In his mind, there is still work to be done.
“I'm in a great position and like where I’m at, but I’m still going to have to go out and shoot a good score,” Johnson said. “You can go low out here and guys are going low every day, especially with the conditions we have — perfect greens, golf course is in great shape and not a lot of wind.”
Johnson knows better than to think it's over. Just an hour before he signed for his 64, he was tied for the lead until English made bogeys on the 16th and 17th and missed a 7-foot birdie putt on the final hole for a 66.
He could also think back to the HSBC Champions in Shanghai three years ago, when he had a six-shot lead in the final round and lost to Justin Rose, matching a PGA Tour record.
As well as he's playing, he's only thinking of going as low as he can.
“Doesn't matter what the other guys are doing,” Johnson said. “I’m just going to play my game and I’ll be aggressive when I can be and be a little more conservative when I have to be.”
Scheffler, coming off the 12th round of 59 or better on the PGA Tour, had a 67. He played in the final group with Johnson, just like he did two weeks ago on the final day of the PGA Championship. On this day, it was a final pair of two players who had the lowest rounds in TPC Boston history. Only one of them shot golf's magic number, and that wasn't a topic of conversation for either of them.
“I just told him nice playing,” Johnson said.
Scheffler said his text messages included one from Ben Crenshaw, a big supporter of all Texas Longhorns. Otherwise, as a local NFL coach might say, it was on to Saturday.
“Yesterday was awesome and the only difference going into today was everybody was telling me good round still, and that’s pretty rare,” Scheffler said. “Once I got on the course, I didn’t think once about it.”
Johnson is going for his second victory of the year and could go to No. 1 in the world — provided Jon Rahm doesn't finish second — for the first time since May 2019.
Tiger Woods predicted Friday there would be low scoring in the third round, and he was right — just not from him or Rory McIlroy, a star pairing for the breakfast hour. Woods birdied the last hole for a 73. McIlroy made two triple bogeys in his round of 74. They get to play again Sunday morning.
Johnson will be going for his fifth FedEx Cup playoff victory, and third in this event on a third course. What matters more is how he finishes the season. The FedEx Cup already features some of the best players in golf — Woods, McIlroy, Vijay Singh, Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth among them — and Johnson wants to be on that list.
Johnson set the target with four birdies in eight holes before heavy rain moved in and halted the third round for 45 minutes. It also softened a TPC Boston that was getting slightly firmer.
He came back and hit to tap-in range for birdie on the 12th, and the had the great finish.
Johnson needed a birdie on the 18th on Friday for his first 59, and said he regrets hitting driver off the tee with a shot that tumbled down a small slope into the rough. Lesson learned? Not really. With the rain, he opted for driver again, teed it low and hit this one perfect, setting up a 5-iron to the green and his long eagle putt.