Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama opened with an eagle and matched Dustin Johnson in shooting a one-under 69 to share the lead after Saturday’s third round of the US PGA’s BMW Championship.
Johnson, coming off a 30-under par score and an 11-shot victory a week ago at the Northern Trust, shared a two-stroke edge with Matsuyama at 1-under 209 through 54 holes at Olympia Fields in suburban Chicago.
“This is pretty much a major championship venue, obviously, and the conditions, the way it’s set up, it’s playing just like a major,” said Johnson.
It was the highest score to lead in the event since 1974. Not since the 1995 Tour Championship has par or higher won a title outside the majors, but it could be in the cards on this former US Open layout.
“It really doesn’t matter how far away you are, you’ve just got to be in the fairway,” Johnson said. “That’s the only way to control the ball and even then it’s still difficult to get it close to the hole.”
The tournament is the second of three tour playoff events, with the top 30 on season points after Sunday’s final round advancing to next week’s Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta.
Matsuyama has not won in more than three years, since the 2017 WGC Bridgestone Invitational, but boosted his chances by blasting out of a greenside bunker into the cup from 37 feet at the first hole.
A four-foot birdie putt at the fourth pushed him to 3-under, but bogeys at the par-3 sixth and eighth and par-4 10th dropped him back.
Matsuyama and Johnson each birdied the par-5 15th, Matsuyama from 3 1.2 feet and Johnson from eight feet, and parred into the clubhouse to remain atop the leaderboard.
Johnson missed the fairway and the first and the green on his approach at the fifth to set up bogeys, but offset them with a six-foot birdie putt at the third and a nine-footer for birdie at the par-3 eighth.
Australia’s Adam Scott, Canadian Mackenzie Hughes and Chile’s Joaquin Niemann shared third on 211.
Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy and Spain’s Jon Rahm were on 212 along with two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson, Americans Brendon Todd and Kevin Kisner and Colombia’s Sebastian Munoz.
– Expectant McIlroy –
McIlroy revealed that his wife, Erica, is due to give birth to their first child, a baby daughter, within days.
“We’re about to be parents very soon, so we’re obviously super excited,” the Northern Ireland star said. “It’s a private matter, but we’re really excited and can’t wait for her to get here.”
His caddie has a beeper and McIlroy has plans to skip the Tour Championship if he gets the call.
“I’m going to play in many more Tour Championships and it’s only going to be the birth of your first child once,” McIlroy said. “That trumps anything else.”
Rahm matched the week’s low round with a 66 despite a one-shot penalty for picking up his ball without marking it on the fifth green.
“For some reason I picked up the ball thinking I had marked it already,” Rahm said.
Tiger Woods fired a 72 to share 55th on 220, well back of the third-place effort he needs to reach next week’s season finale.
The 15-time major champion found water off the 17th tee on his way to a triple-bogey seven and a third over-par round to start for the first time since 2010.
Canada’s Corey Conners aced the par-3 sixth hole with a 9-iron from 150 yards.