Johnson maintains lead in Tour Championship
ATLANTA — Dustin Johnson powered his way down the fairways and occasionally out of the brutal rough at East Lake on Friday for a 3-under 67, giving him a one-shot lead over Kevin Chappell in the Tour Championship and moving him one round closer to the $10 million FedEx Cup prize.
The U.S. Open champion is on a different level at the moment.
Even on a demanding test like East Lake this year — only 10 players remain under par — Johnson is hitting his driver long and straight. His wedge game has gone from a weakness to a strength. A new putter he put in play two weeks ago when he won the BMW Championship is giving him a better feel for alignment.
Small wonder that this was his seventh straight round at 68 or better during the FedEx Cup playoffs.
Johnson was at 7-under 133.
Chappell, one of two players at the Tour Championship who has yet to win on the PGA Tour, had a 68.
Kevin Kisner (70) and Hideki Matsuyama (71) were four shots behind, while Rory McIlroy overcame another rough start on the front nine to post a 70. He was in the group five shots behind.
If nothing else, Johnson all but eliminated nearly everyone not among the top five seeds vying for the FedEx Cup. McIlroy is No. 6 and still has a chance, though he would have to win the Tour Championship and Johnson would have to finish third.
Jason Day is out of the picture. The world's No. 1 player withdrew in the middle of a round at the second straight tournament, citing the same nagging back issues that he hopes will be cured by rest.
By Day withdrawing, Johnson won the points-based PGA player of the year award and is likely to win the player vote as PGA Tour player of the year because of his three victories, with perhaps another to follow.
CHAMPIONS: At Victoria, British Columbia, Scott McCarron birdied five of the first six holes and finished with an 8-under 62 to take the first-round lead in the Pacific Links Bear Mountain Championship.
The 51-year-old McCarron birdied all four par-5 holes — Nos. 1, 12, 13 and 18 — in chilly conditions at Bear Mountain Resort, the first-year venue in the PGA Tour Champions event that was played in Hawaii from 2012-14.
McCarron won the Principal Charity Classic in June in Iowa for his first victory on the 50-and-over tour after winning three times on the PGA Tour.
Doug Garwood and Jerry Smith were tied for second at 64. Garwood played the back nine in 6-under 30, and Smith had eight birdies and a bogey.