Zach Johnson relied on great wedge play and a few timely putts for a 7-under 66 on Saturday to take a three-stroke lead after two rounds of the Tournament of Champions.
Defending champion Dustin Johnson (66), Matt Kuchar (68) and Jordan Spieth (70) were tied for second. Zach Johnson was at 13-under 133.
He failed to birdie any of the par 5s, and three-putted one of them at No. 5, but his wedges were finding the right spots of the green to set up birdie chances. He ran off four birdies in a five-hole stretch on the front nine, and a few good chips kept him from getting seriously close to a bogey.
Dustin Johnson approached the Plantation Course differently. He birdied all the par 5s with his length, and only fell back with a pair of bogeys on the back nine when he missed short putts.
“This golf course sets up well for me,” Dustin Johnson said. “I can reach all the par 5s, and there’s a few short holes where you can drive it up close to the green. So if I chip and it and putt it well, I’m going to shoot a good score pretty much every time.”
So what does Zach Johnson make of that outlook?
“I would say I’m up by three gross, and by eight or nine net, based on that rationale,” he said.
Kuchar had his second-straight round of 68 with some good birdies and a few bogeys. Spieth had said he should not make too many bogeys on this course if he kept it in play, though he made one on the seventh to lose some momentum.
Webb Simpson and Michael Thompson, part of a four-way tie for the lead after the opening round, each had a 71 and were four shots behind.
Masters champion Adam Scott, who can get within range of No. 1 in the world depending on his two weeks in Hawaii, had a 70 and was seven shots behind. The Australian was in dire need of a low round to at least have chance of that No.1 going into today’s final round.
Zach Johnson is going after his second-straight win.
The last one was unofficial, yet no less memorable. Johnson was four shots behind Tiger Woods in the World Challenge on the back nine and rallied to catch him, holed out from the drop zone on the 18th hole to force a playoff and then won on the first extra hole.
Except for his Masters win in 2007, it might be the most famous of his 11 victories worldwide.
Zach Johnson is starting his 11th year on the PGA Tour. He has won a major (Woods tied for second), played on three Ryder Cup teams and knows his limitations.
He said while in awe of what Woods can do, he is past the stage of intimidation. And the same goes for Dustin Johnson.
“I’ve played with him a number of times, too,” Zach Johnson said. “I like watching him hit driver. He’s not a whole lot different than a lot of the other guys I play with because they all hit it a lot further than me it seems like... I don’t know. Dustin does not intimidate me.”