OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. — Dustin Johnson said his game feels similar to last weekend, when he had the easiest of his 22 career victories on the PGA Tour. It just doesn't look that way at the BMW Championship.
Every par at Olympia Fields Country Club is hard work, and Johnson played the final 13 holes Saturday with nothing worse than that. It's what carried him to a 1-under-par 69 and a share of the lead with Hideki Matsuyama, leaving them as the only players under par going into the final round.
"I feel like it's fairly similar, just obviously these conditions and the greens are a lot more difficult," he said of the comparison to TPC Boston, the site of his 11-stroke, 3o-under win in The Northern Trust that pushed him to No. 1 in both the FedEx Cup standings and the Official World Golf Ranking. "This is pretty much a major championship venue, and the conditions, the way it's set up, it's playing just like a major."
First-round leader Matsuyama, who had a three-shot lead early in the third round when he holed a bunker shot for eagle at the start and stuffed a wedge shot in tight for birdie on No. 4, fell back with a string of bogeys and held it together for a 69.
"Great start and then just had to hang on," said the 28-year-old from Japan who won five PGA Tour events in a three-year span that ended in August 2017. "Just tried to do what I could to stay in, and I was happy with how it went."
Johnson, a 36-year-old American, and Matsuyama were at 1-under 209. Everyone else was over par going into the final round.
Baylor School graduate Harris English shot a 69 — after opening with a 75 and shooting a 71 on Friday — and was tied for 21st at 5 over. English entered the tourney sixth in the FedEx Cup standings after a runner-up finish last weekend.
Sunday offers one last chance for some players to be among the top 30 who advance to the FedEx Cup finale, and, more realistically for others — including Tiger Woods — one last round to prepare for next month's U.S. Open at Winged Foot, a course that will play every bit as tough.
Patrick Cantlay hit only five fairways and didn't make a birdie as he tumbled out of a tie for the lead with a 75 that left him five shots behind and tied for 15th — and might cost him a spot in the Tour Championship, which starts Friday at Atlanta's East Lake Golf Club.
Rory McIlroy had to play left-handed to escape the base of a tree while starting the back nine with a bogey, and he finished with a shot he thought was going to be long. Instead, it came up 70 feet short and led to a three-putt bogey for a 73. He still was only three shots back, assuming he plays.
McIlroy said after the round his wife is expecting their first child, news they had shared with family and friends but that was revealed to many more during the NBC broadcast. He said his caddie and best friend, Harry Diamond, has kept a phone in his pocket to not miss a call. And if it's time, he said, "I'm out of here."
Jon Rahm matched the low round of the day at 66 that could have easily been one shot better if not for a blunder that even he couldn't believe. He forgot to set a marker down on the green before picking up his golf ball on No. 5, freezing in his tracks when he realized what happened.
"I was thinking of somebody else or something else and yeah, I just picked up the ball without marking it, simple as that," Rahm said after a round that left him only three strokes behind and tied for sixth. "I can't really give you an explanation. It's one of those things that happen in golf. Never thought it would in my professional career, but here we are."
Last weekend on a rain-softened course with little wind, Johnson was at 22 under through three rounds and had a five-shot lead. That felt easy. This does not.
Chile's Joaquin Niemann shot a 68 and was tied for third at 1-over 211 with Canada's Mackenzie Hughes (69) and Australia's Adam Scott (70). Another shot back were McIlroy, Rahm, Sebastián Muñoz (67), Brendon Todd (71), Bubba Watson (70) and Kevin Kisner, who had 15 pars, two birdies and a bogey for a 70.
Rounds like that go a long way at Olympia Fields, the former U.S. Open course playing like one with its thick rough, rock-hard greens and enough wind to make the fairways look tighter than they are.
"I've played good and bad this week, and I've had basically the same score every day," said Scott, whose superb bunker play kept him close. "I saw today, though, that if I hit it well, there's a chance to make a few putts. One of this leading group will shoot 4 under tomorrow, 4 or 5 under I'm sure."
Woods, meanwhile, had a reasonable start to his round and wasn't losing much ground until he lost a tee shot into the water right of the 17th fairway and then smothered a fairway metal to the left. He walked across a cart path, smacking the club off the concrete — and twice looked like he wanted to break it. He missed a short putt for a triple bogey and shot a 72.
Woods has yet to break par this week. One more round like that, and it will be the first time in 10 years — the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio — that he had all four rounds over par. He needed something close to fourth to advance to the Tour Championship for the first time since 2018.
Matsuyama is trying to end three years without a victory. Johnson is trying to win for the second time in seven days, along with positioning himself to be the top seed at the Tour Championship, which would allow him to start the tournament with a two-shot lead under the staggered scoring system.
For players such as Hughes, Niemann and Scott, it's simply about trying to get to Atlanta. All of them are one round away on a golf course where small mistakes can lead to bogeys or worse on just about every hole.
On target, in the lead
ROGERS, Ark. — Anna Nordqvist shot a 9-under 62 to take a three-stroke lead over Sei Young Kim into the final round of the LPGA Tour's Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.
Tied for the first-round lead after a 64, Nordqvist hit all 18 greens in regulation at Pinnacle Country Club in her second straight bogey-free round.
"I played really solid both today and yesterday," Nordqvist said. "Got off to a great start. Had a lot of good opportunities. Made a few putts early and just kept going. Felt like I hit my irons really well."
The 33-year-old Swede birdied five of the first six holes and seven of the first 11 in the round interrupted by an afternoon thunderstorm. She added two more on the par-3 15th and par-5 18th to get to 16-under 126.
"There is something about Arkansas." Nordqvist said. "Always liked this place. Probably one of the few places in the U.S. I could really see myself being, because I like the atmosphere here."
Nordqvist has two major titles and six other LPGA Tour victories. She most recently won in 2017 at the Founders Cup in Phoenix and the major Evian Championship in France.
"There is obviously low scores out here, so you got to keep going," Nordqvist said. "It's just so competitive out here. In order to win out here, you really have to be on top of your game. So feel good so far, but I'm going to have to post a low one tomorrow, too."
South Korea's Kim followed an opening 65 with a 64 in her first LPGA Tour start since January. She eagled the 18th hole and closed with a birdie on the par-4 ninth.
Americans Austin Ernst (65) and Nelly Korda (63) and South Korea's Jenny Shin (63) were tied for third at 12 under.
"You have to shoot a really low number out here to even be in contention, and so you have to be very aggressive," Korda said after a birdie-birdie-eagle finish. "Going to take it as low as I can. It's going to take a low one to win tomorrow."
Shin birdied five of the last seven holes, and Ernst birdied 17 and eagled 18.
Ready to finally win
BIRMINGHAM, England — South Africa's Justin Walters shot a 3-under 69 and doubled his lead to two strokes entering the final round of the UK Championship.
Walters was at 12-under 204 through 54 holes at the Belfry and has led after every round so far. He is chasing his first European Tour title after being a runner-up three times.
"It would be huge, there's no lying about that. I'm 39 now; you wonder how many opportunities you will get going forward with all the youngsters coming through," Walters said. "Maybe like a good red wine I'll get better with age, but I don't know, it would be nice to take advantage tomorrow."
Walters started his round by sinking a 20-footer for birdie, his first of five in the round.
Tied for second were Germany's Martin Kaymer (66), the 35-year-old two-time major champion, and France's Benjamin Hebert (70), a 33-year-old who has never won on the European Tour but has come close with three playoff losses just last year.
German women stepping up
LIVERPOOL, England — In another bump for Germany in the women's golf world, Aline Krauter rallied from an early deficit to win the Women's British Amateur, 1 up over Annabell Fuller at West Lancashire Golf Club.
Her triumph came six days after 27-year-old Sophia Popov won the Women's British Open at Royal Troon Golf Club in Scotland, becoming the first German woman to secure a major golf championship. Saturday was the second time in three years a German won the Women's British Amateur, with Leonie Harm the champ in 2018.
The 20-year-old Krauter, who plays at Stanford, was 3 down through four holes of the 18-hole title match. She won six of the next eight holes to build a 3-up lead. Fuller, who is from England and was a freshman at Florida this past spring, closed the deficit to one hole with a birdie on the 17th, but she could only match pars with Krauter to close.
The victory gives Krauter a spot in the Women's British Open next year at Carnoustie Golf Links. The Women's British Amateur champion typically gets a spot in the U.S. Women's Open, the Evian Championship and the Augusta National Women's Amateur.