ATLANTA — The magic of Hooper the looper wore off Saturday in the third round of the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club.
With former Coastal Carolina teammate Cameron Hooper on the bag for the second consecutive day because of an injury to caddie Bobby Brown, Dustin Johnson stumbled with a 3-over-par 73 and dropped from a tie for fifth entering the day to a tie for 13th at 1-under 209.
Hooper, a financial advisor for Morgan Stanley in Atlanta, hopped the ropes in loafers and took over for Brown for the final eight holes Friday because of a lower back injury, and Johnson played the holes 3 under to pull within three shots of the lead.
With Hooper caddying for the entire round Saturday, Johnson played the final five holes 3 over to fall seven shots behind leaders Brandt Snedeker and Justin Rose.
“It was fun, we had a good day, I just struggled a little bit today,” Johnson said. “Even when I drove it in the fairway I didn’t hit great iron shots. And when I hit it close to the hole I was putting downhill so I had to be a little tentative with them and never really had good looks at it.”
Johnson was even par for the day and still within striking distance of the leaders through 13 holes. But he got wild on the final few holes, missing the green with a wedge from the fairway and making bogey on the par-4 14th, causing a spectator to spill a beer with a 7-iron over the green on the par-5 15th en route to a par, hitting a port-o-potty over a hospitality tent to the right of the fairway on the par-4 17th en route to a par, and chunking a chip into a bunker and making double bogey on 18.
“Bogeying 14 with a pitching wedge and then parring 15 with a 7-iron is not good,” Johnson said. “I still had all the chances to shoot a good score today even though it was playing tough. It was one of those days where I could have turned it around on 14 and 15 there, you know. I could have been 1 or 2 under [for the round] coming into the last hole, and you’d think if you’re in that situation you’ll probably do a little better than what I did.”
Johnson came up short of an elevated green on the 199-yard par-3 18th, chipped into the bunker in front of a forward pin, blasted out to 10 feet and left the bogey putt on the lip.
“I’m dead into the grain on a tight lie and I thought I was going to catch it,” Johnson said of the chip. “It just got a little grass in between the face and came out high and soft instead of a low spinning shot. I was in a bad spot. I chunked my tee shot, anyway.”
Johnson hit just 5 of 14 fairways and 12 of 18 greens in regulation in the third round.
Prior to the 14th hole, Johnson bogeyed the first following a pulled drive and missed 9-foot par putt, birdied the third with a 22-foot putt, and bogeyed the fifth with a 325-yard drive in the right rough, second shot short of the green and missed an 11-foot par putt following a chip from the rough.
The highlight of the round was a near hole-in-one on the 179-yard par-3 11th hole, where Johnson missed the ace by about an inch. “That was one of the only good shots I hit all day, but it was nice to have one tap-in [birdie],” he said.
If the tournament were over after three rounds, Johnson would finish eighth in the FedEx Cup playoffs and earn a bonus of $600,000, as well as a fair share of the tournament’s $8 million purse. He can add $100,000 or $200,000 to his FedEx Cup bonus by moving up one or two spots on the points list.
He has finished fourth and fifth in the past two years to earn combined bonuses of $2.5 million.
“I need to go and play as good as I can tomorrow and see what happens,” Johnson said.
Johnson also has a chance to be the only player this year to finish in the top 10 in all four playoff events, and join Rory Sabbatini in 2007 and Padraig Harrington in 2009 as the only players to record top-10s in all four events in one season. Johnson finished tied for third, fourth and sixth in the first three tournaments.
Brown, who has an apparent lower back strain or pulled muscle, was expected to see a doctor Saturday and his status for Sunday is unclear. “[Saturday] morning he still wasn’t doing well but was going to see a doctor today and get some work done on it,” Johnson said.
Hooper remains on call for the final round.
Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284.