Tied for lead, Johnson primed to regain top ranking
After a 15-month run at number one, Dustin Johnson relinquished top spot four weeks ago to fellow American Justin Thomas, who is not playing this week.
CARY - Dustin Johnson, tied for the third-round lead with fellow American Andrew Putnam at the FedEx St Jude Classic in Tennessee, will regain the world number one ranking if he wins on Sunday.
But whether he does or not, he is excited about his form ahead of next week’s US Open.
“I’ve got a lot of confidence in the game right now,” he told reporters after carding a five-under 65 on a scorching Saturday at TPC Southwind in Memphis.
“I feel like I’m swinging really well.
“I’ve got a lot of control of my golf ball and that’s what you’re looking for going into any week but, yeah, especially going into tomorrow and then obviously next week.”
Putnam went even better, wielding a hot putter for a 64 to join Johnson at 15-under 195, the duo five shots clear of Stewart Cink (64).
After a 15-month run at number one, Johnson relinquished top spot four weeks ago to fellow American Justin Thomas, who is not playing this week.
Johnson will hardly be intimidated by the little-known Putnam, the only legitimate threat if he plays half decently.
“I can kind of control my own destiny,” Johnson said. “If I play really good golf, I’m probably going to win. If I don’t, I’m sure Andrew’s going to beat me. It’s pretty simple.”
Johnson, 33, has won 17 times on the PGA Tour, including the 2016 US Open, while Putnam’s thin resume pales by comparison, with nothing higher than a top-five finish in 43 career starts.
The 29-year-old has made only one bogey through 54 holes. He knows it will be the biggest Sunday of his career as he plays in the final pairing for the first time.
“It’s going to feel a little different than a typical Sunday round of golf but I’m excited. I’ve earned my way here,” he said.
Cink moved into third place with a round that included the fifth hole-in-one of his career, from 144 yards at the par-three eighth — a “perfect yardage” for a pitching wedge into a slight headwind.
His ball landed softly on the fringe, bounced forward and trickled into the left side of the cup as Cink raised his arms in celebration.
“Statistically, you feel like you should have made holes in one all the time out here as much as you play but they don’t come around very often,” the 2009 British Open champion said.