SHANGHAI (AP) — For 16 holes, Dustin Johnson looked like the player who has won every year since turning pro and has played on two Ryder Cup teams. Starting the third round of the HSBC Champions with a five-shot lead, he blasted his way to 10 birdies and was running away from the field.
As for the other two holes, it was a reminder that no lead is safe in his hands.
All those birdies were offset by two double bogeys, the last one cutting his lead in half going into the final round of this World Golf Championship. About the only thing that cheered him up Saturday afternoon was a 6-under 66 for a three-shot lead over Ian Poulter.
"It's a good score," Johnson said. "I'm definitely happy with what I shot. I'm just not happy with the way I finished. Making two doubles, there's no excuse for that, especially the way I'm playing right now."
Johnson ran off five straight birdies to close out a 30 on the front nine of Sheshan International and a five-shot lead over Poulter. For his next trick, the 29-year-old American hit wedge four times from inside 100 yards before he could get the ball on the green at the 10th hole. He had to make a 12-foot putt for double bogey.
He followed with another run of four straight birdies, hitting a 5-iron into 15 feet for a two-putt birdie on the par-5 14th, and a 3-iron to the front of the 16th green for a chip-and-putt birdie that stretched his lead to six shots.
Everything changed in the final half-hour of a soft, gentle day for scoring in Shanghai.
Poulter, who shot 30 on the front nine without making birdie on either of the par 5s, closed with a birdie on the par-5 18th for a 63. He thought that was a good day of work, even though he wasn't making up any ground on Johnson.
"This golf course gives up a lot of birdies, and he's a good player," Poulter said. "And in this form, he's going to make a lot of birdies. I just need to do my thing tomorrow and make a lot more than what he does. I'm going to have to see what happens coming down the stretch."
Poulter was talking about Sunday afternoon. He didn't realize he would be getting some help on Saturday.
Johnson's tee shot sailed to the right and into the middle of the lake on the 18th. It appeared that he could have dropped further up the fairway, but playing partners Boo Weekley and Bubba Watson didn't offer much help as to where (or if) the shot ever crossed land before it entered the hazard. Not wanting to take any chance, Johnson opted to return to the tee. He ripped another drive down the edge of the water, this time with his draw to reach the fairway.
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