For the first time in his career, Dustin Johnson enters the final round of the Masters Tournament with a legitimate chance to earn a green jacket.
Johnson shot an even-par 72 in trying conditions in Saturday’s third round at Augusta National Golf Club and is tied for fifth at even-par 216, just three shots behind leader Jordan Spieth.
“I’m right there,” Johnson said. “I’m very pleased with the way I’m playing, I’m very pleased with my position. … Tomorrow, when you’re making the turn going to No. 10, you just want a chance to win.”
Johnson’s best finish in his six previous Masters appearances is a tie for sixth last year, but the nine-time PGA Tour winner was 10 shots behind Spieth entering the final round.
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Johnson played a steady round with two birdies and two bogeys in a third consecutive day of blustery conditions.
“I’ve just got to keep giving myself chances, keep hitting it on the correct side of the hole, have uphill looks as much as you can and try to keep the stress down as much as possible,” Johnson said. “You don’t want to be grinding over pars all day. Today I felt like I didn’t have to do that.
“On a day like today, it’s tough and it’s very difficult, so I’m happy with it.”
The wind is expected to lessen and scoring conditions are expected to improve Sunday.
Johnson entered the third round in a seven-way tie for eighth and four shots out of the lead at even par, and bogeyed the first hole after driving into a right fairway bunker and missing a 5-foot par putt. He got the stroke back with a wedge to 8 feet on the short par-4 third hole.
He made par on 10 straight holes before reaching the par-5 13th hole in two shots for a birdie, then lipped out a 6-foot putt that would have saved par on the par-4 17th following a drive into the left trees and second shot into a front greenside bunker.
He hit both his tee and approach shots into bunkers on the 18th, but splashed his greenside bunker shot to a foot to save par and avoid going over par.
“That was big. You always definitely want to make four there, especially when I just bogeyed 17,” Johnson said. “It was definitely nice to get that one up‑and‑down on 18.”
Johnson did not three-putt for the first time in three rounds and attempted 29 putts, which has him tied for third in the field with leader Jordan Spieth with 85 over 54 holes.
He made several key putts between 5 and 10 feet to save pars, and had several close calls on birdie putts. He had birdie putts of 22, 15 and 20 feet on holes 4-6, had a 13-foot birdie putt hang on the lip on the ninth, brushed the lip with a 14-foot birdie putt on the 12th, and had putts lip out on 14 and 17.
“I had good looks at birdies. I felt like I hit a lot of good putts that didn’t go in the hole,” Johnson said. “As tough as it is out there, you know when you do have really good looks at birdies you want to make those, because you know you’re not going to get too many opportunities for close looks at birdie.
“But it’s not frustrating because I hit the putts where I wanted to and maybe the wind held them up or it hit something and kind of wiggled the other way, that’s just how it goes.”