Z. Johnson, Pieters tied at WGC-Bridgestone


Thanks to a pair of birdies on the 18th hole, Zach Johnson and Thomas Pieters share the lead heading into the final round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Here’s where things stand through 54 holes at Firestone:

Leaderboard: Johnson (-9), Pieters (-9), Scott Hend (-8), Hideki Matsuyama (-7), Adam Hadwin (-6), Charley Hoffman (-6), Rory McIlroy (-6)

What it means: Johnson, the two-time major champion, is seeking his 13th PGA Tour title and his first since his 2015 Open triumph at St. Andrews. He has yet in his impressive career to win a World Golf Championship. Pieters is a three-time European Tour winner seeking his first victory on U.S. soil. The tall Belgian introduced himself to American audiences last fall in the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine, where he went a European-best 4-1-0, teaming with McIlroy and taking down J.B. Holmes in singles. One back, Hend is a nine-time Asian Tour winner who is the field after winning that circuit’s Order of Merit title last year. Those three will be chased on Sunday by the No. 3 and 4 players in the Official World Golf Ranking, Matsuyama and McIlroy.

Round of the day: Hend’s 63 was Saturday’s lowest score by two shots. He made four bridies on each side with his only blemish coming in the form of a three-putt at the par-3 seventh.

Best of the rest: Johnson made four birdies, three pars and two bogeys for an opening-nine 33. He added four more birdies and a lone bogey on the back to briefly take the outright lead before Pieters matched him.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Jimmy Walker plummeted down the leaderboard with a 4-over 74. Next week’s PGA defending champion got off to a horrific start carding two bogeys and two doubles for a front-nine 41. He recovered with 2-under second nine but will start Sunday six back.

Shots of the day: McIlroy showed off both his prodigious strength and his soft touch on back-to-back shots Saturday. He chipped in for birdie on No. 12 and followed it with this drive on 13 that nearly reached the spectators’ crosswalk.