SHANGHAI — Dustin Johnson tied the course record with 9-under-par 63, four shots better than anyone else Friday, and built a five-shot lead in the HSBC Champions. It was the kind of score that might make everyone else wonder which course he was playing.
Except that Graeme McDowell saw the whole thing.
Crouched behind the 10th green at Sheshan International, McDowell looked over at the powerful Johnson and said, “I’ve probably seen 18 of the best drives I’ve seen all year in the last two days.”
Moments later, after Johnson blasted another one down the middle, McDowell saw No. 19.
It was an impressive display, Johnson at his very best with the most important club in his bag. He ran off six birdies in his opening seven holes. He never hit more than 8-iron into a par 4. He twice came within 15 yards of driving the green on par 4s – once with a 3-iron.
“I really drove the ball really well,” Johnson said. “For me, that’s a big key.”
Johnson became the sixth player with 63 at Sheshan International, last achieved by Martin Kaymer in 2011. He is at 12-under 132, five shots clear of Rory McIlroy (72), Bubba Watson (69) and Boo Weekley (67).
McIlroy couldn’t keep up. No one could.
McIlroy, who started the second round of this World Golf Championship with a two-shot lead, made three birdies on the front nine to stretch his lead to four shots. At that point, Johnson was just getting warmed up. And it wasn’t long before McIlroy started to cool off. He drove into the bunker and made another bogey, and he didn’t give himself any birdie chances over the last six holes.
CHAMPIONS TOUR: In San Francisco, Fred Couples took the second-round lead in the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, shooting his second consecutive 6-under-par 65 in the season-ending event.
Winless this season, Couples had a bogey-free round at TPC Harding Park.
First-round leader Peter Senior bogeyed the 18th for 69 and fall two strokes back.
Bart Bryant was third at 8 under after 66.
Charles Schwab Cup points leader Kenny Perry had 71 to remain 3-under.
Fred Funk aced the par-3 eighth hole with a 4-iron, but bogeyed four of his next seven holes and finished with his second straight 70.