NORTON, Mass. — Dustin Johnson could have used a finish like this Friday, when he flirted with a 59.
His birdie-eagle ending to the third round of The Northern Trust gave him a 7-under-par 64 on Saturday, stretched his lead to five shots in the FedEx Cup playoffs opener and resulted in a different personal record.
Johnson, coming off a remarkable day in which he was 11 under through 11 holes and finished with seven pars for a 60 and a two-stroke advantage, pulled away from Harris English and Scottie Scheffler with a 20-foot birdie putt on the 17th and a 40-footer for eagle on the closing hole at TPC Boston.
He was at 22-under 191, his lowest 54-hole score by three shots.
"I'm in a great position and like where I'm at, but I'm still going to have to go out and shoot a good score," said Johnson, who at age 36 is seeking his 22nd PGA Tour victory. "You can go low out here, and guys are going low every day, especially with the conditions we have: perfect greens, golf course is in great shape and not a lot of wind."
English, who played for Baylor School and the University of Georgia, shared the lead after opening with a 64 on Thursday and was tied for fourth and three shots out through 36 holes. On Saturday, he had three birdies in a four-hole stretch early on the back nine, and he was tied for the lead when Johnson made his lone bogey of the round on the 13th hole when he failed to get up and down from a bunker.
English, however, followed with consecutive bogeys when he missed the green well to the right of the water on the par-3 16th, then three-putted from 70 feet on the 17th. He missed a third consecutive putt from seven feet or closer, the last one for birdie, and had to settle for a 66.
That left him tied for second with Scheffler, who closed with a birdie to follow his second-round 59 with a 67.
"Try to make as many birdies as I can and see what happens," said English, who at 27th in the FedEx Cup standings entering the tournament was not feeling the pressure of trying to be among the top 70 who advance to the next leg of the playoffs.
Louis Oosthuizen (68) was seven shots behind and alone in fourth on the leaderboard, and his best hope now would appear to be simply advancing to the BMW Championship, which starts Thursday at Olympia Fields Country Club near Chicago. He was 99th in the standings coming in.
The top 30 after that tournament go on to the season-ending Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.
Keith Mitchell — like English, a former Red Raider and Bulldog — was tied for 60th at 4 under on the leaderboard after starting the playoffs at No. 105 in the standings.
Popov's big chance
TROON, Scotland — With her world ranking among women's golfers close to No. 400, Sophia Popov was pushing a trolley for her best friend at an LPGA Tour event in the United States three weeks ago. Saturday evening, with three rounds of this Women's British Open in the books, she led by three strokes.
The 27-year-old set up what could be a life-changing day on the links of Royal Troon by shooting a bogey-free 4-under 67 that tied for the day's low score and put her in prime position to become the first German to win a women's major golf championship.
Popov was at 4-under 209 overall and one of just three players under par after 54 holes. Australia's Minjee Lee of Australia and Thailand's Jasmine Suwannapura were tied for second after each shot a 69.
Germany's Caroline Masson (68) was tied for fourth at 1 over with a pair of Americans — Austin Ernst (72) and Lindsay Weaver (71).
Popov qualified for the British Open with a top-10 finish two weeks ago at the Marathon Classic, which she was playing only because COVID-19 restrictions kept some higher-ranked golfers from traveling. Last week she tied for second in Phoenix while competing on the second-tier Symetra Tour as she looks to regain her playing status on the LPGA Tour that she lost — by one stroke — at Q-School last season.
Dueling in Wales
NEWPORT, Wales — Sweden's Sebastian Soderberg and Scotland's Connor Syme were tied for the lead and three shots clear of the field entering the final round of the Wales Open.
Second-round leader Syme, who turned 25 last month and is seeking his first professional title, birdied the last hole for the third time this week, completing a 1-under 70 to join Soderberg at 7-under 206 through 54 holes. Soderberg, who is 29, had already signed for a bogey-free 68 as he searches for his second European Tour victory.
Finland's Sami Valimaki was third after a 67, the best round of the day at Celtic Manor, the site of last week's Celtic Classic.