SHANGHAI — For 16 holes, Dustin Johnson looked like the player who has won every year since turning pro and has played on two Ryder Cup teams. Starting the third round of the HSBC Champions with a five-shot lead, he blasted his way to 10 birdies and was running away from the field.
As for the other two holes, it was a reminder that no lead is safe in his hands.
All those birdies were offset by two double bogeys, the last one cutting his lead in half going into the final round of this World Golf Championship. About the only thing that cheered him up Saturday afternoon was 6-under-par 66 for a three-shot lead over Ian Poulter.
“It’s a good score,” Johnson said. “I’m definitely happy with what I shot. I’m just not happy with the way I finished. Making two doubles, there’s no excuse for that, especially the way I’m playing right now.”
Poulter, who shot 30 on the front nine without making birdie on either of the par 5s, closed with a birdie on the par-5 18th for 63. At the time, he thought that was a good day of work, even though he wasn’t making up any ground on Johnson.
“This golf course gives up a lot of birdies, and he’s a good player,” Poulter said. “And in this form, he’s going to make a lot of birdies. I just need to do my thing tomorrow and make a lot more than what he does. I’m going to have to see what happens coming down the stretch.”
Poulter was talking about this afternoon. He didn’t realize he would be getting some help on Saturday.
CHAMPIONS TOUR: In San Francisco, Fred Couples extended his lead to five strokes after the third round of the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship.
Winless this season, Couples shot 3-under-par 68 to reach 15-under 198 at TPC Harding Park.
Mark O’Meara is second after 67.
Defending champion Tom Lehman had the best round of the day, 65, to join Bart Bryant and Peter Senior at 9-under. Bryant shot 70, and Senior had 72.
Charles Schwab Cup points leader Kenny Perry is in a three-way tie for seventh at 7- under after 67. Bernhard Langer, needing a victory and help to catch Perry, also is 7-under after 71, as is Rocco Mediate, who had 66.