Defending champion Dustin Johnson bombed his way past a struggling Zach Johnson on Sunday, but his bid for back-to-back titles likely won’t be the biggest story in the final round in Hawaii. Here’s the skinny on Round 3 at Kapalua:
The leaderboard: Webb Simpson, Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson at -14; Webb Simpson (-12); Gary Woodland, Jason Dufner, Brandt Snedeker and Kevin Streelman at -11.
What it means: Johnson continued to shine on the Plantation Course, where he now has shot in the 60s in 11 of his 18 career rounds here. It would be his third victory in the last 52 weeks. A bigger story, however, would be Spieth, who is trying to become the youngest two-time Tour winner since 1932, and the third youngest ever. At 20 years, 5 months and 10 days, he also would become the youngest champion of the winners-only event, eclipsing Tiger Woods’ record by more than seven months. He’ll play in the final group with Simpson.
Round of the day: Simpson made four birdies in a five-hole stretch on the back nine to shoot 68 and surge into a share of the lead, and he admitted afterward to playing with a “heavy heart” after learning that regular caddie Paul Tesori’s newborn son remains in the intensive-care unit. It’s a new year but the same old form for Simpson, who is looking to build on a run of four consecutive top-7 finishes. He already has a win in the 2013-14 season – his runaway victory in Vegas – and is searching for his fifth career PGA Tour title.
Best of the rest: Gary Woodland’s bogey-free 67 vaulted him to T-5 on the leaderboard. Brian Gay went 6 under on his opening six holes en route to a record-tying 29 on the front nine. That score matched Mike Weir’s mark from 2002. Gay made an eagle-3 on the fifth hole, but he failed to birdie any of the remaining par 5s and dropped a shot on the par-4 16th. Nonetheless, his 8-under 65 was a nice bounce-back from his Saturday 76, and he now enters the final round six shots behind.
Biggest disappointment: It was not a good day for Zach Johnson, who began the third round with a three-shot lead but now trails three players by two shots. Without his best stuff he was able to stay ahead of the field for much of the day, but he made a mess of the short 14th, the bogey ending a streak of 38 consecutive holes without a dropped shot. Two holes later, Johnson blasted his tee shot right, into the trees, and took a drop for an unplayable lie. After a 74, he was one of only two players (Derek Ernst) who failed to break par on Day 3.
Biggest storyline heading into Monday: Quite simply, can Spieth notch another W? The win in the limited-field event would send Spieth into elite company and further his legend.