Dustin Johnson has won four times in his career during the playoffs, but has never taken home the FedEx Cup, and seems determined to change that.
DJ, ranked second in the world and No. 7 in the FedEx Cup point standings, bounced back from a bogey on the first hole to shoot 4-under-par 67 and take a one-stroke lead over Jordan Spieth midway through The Northern Trust, the playoff opener, at Liberty National Golf Club www.libertynationalgc.com in Jersey City, N.J.
“I’ve always liked (Liberty National) since the first time I played it,” said Johnson, who has won the opener twice at other courses and helped the United States win the 2017 Presidents Cup on the Jersey City course.
“You’ve still got to hit the shots and right now I feel like I’m swinging it really well. I’ve got a lot of control with the golf ball and hitting a lot of really nice shots and rolled in a couple putts today, which is nice, but still feel like I left quite a few out there.
“I’m in a good position heading into the weekend, and you know, if I can keep swinging the way I am, I think it’s going to be a good weekend.”
Johnson birdied three of the last five holes, capped by an eight-foot putt at No. 18 to record a 36-hole total of 12-under.
Spieth, the 2015 FedEx Cup champion who has been battling inconsistency all season, posted a 64 with four birdies on each nine. He capped his round with a 19-foot birdie putt on the ninth hole after hitting a wild drive into the rough.
“I made a lot of birdies today,” said Spieth, who started the week No. 69 in the standings and must remain in the top 70 to make it to the BMW Championship next week. “I got a good break on 18 and was able to make a birdie.
“My game feels like I’m making good progress. I feel better each week than I did the week before. I need a solid (result) to get into the tournament next week. I did what I wanted to do the first two days and I have a chance to win this tournament.”
The top 70 in the point standings will advance to the BMW Championship next week at Medinah Country Club outside Chicago, with the top 30 reaching the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.
Seventh-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain, No. 10 in the point standings, shot 68 and is two shots back in a tie for third with Patrick Reed, who had a 68, Abraham Ancer of Mexico, who posted a 65, and first-round leader Troy Merritt, who followed his opening 62 with a 70.
Fourth-ranked Justin Rose of England, the defending FedEx Cup champion, totaled 68 and is one more behind in a tie for ninth with second-ranked Rory McIlroy, the 2016 FedEx Cup champ who also had a 68, Louis Oosthuizen (65) of South Africa, Wyndham Clark (66) and Andrew Putnam (64) of Pepperdine.
McIlroy self-reported an apparent violation when he moved a piece of sand in the bunker on the 14th hole and was assessed a two-shot penalty, but the penalty was rescinded by PGA Tour officials after the round.
Ninth-ranked Justin Thomas, the 2017 FedEx Cup champion, shot 68 and is tied for 15th, defending Northern Trust champion and ninth-ranked Bryson DeChambeau of Clovis is tied for 20th after a second 68, and 10th-ranked Patrick Cantlay of Los Alamitos and UCLA shot 67 and is tied for 27th.
Jim Furyk, the 2010 FedEx Cup winner, totaled 66 and is in a tie for 34th that includes 2012 FedEx Cup winner Brandt Snedeker, who wound up at 67, and Phil Mickelson, who came in at 66.
Top-ranked Brooks Koepka, who leads the points standings, put up a 69 and is in a tie for 47th that includes 2014 FedEx Cup champ Billy Horschel, who had a 67, and sixth-ranked Francesco Molinari of Italy is tied for 66th following a 72.
Fifth-ranked Tiger Woods, the 2007 and 2009 FedEx Cup champion, withdrew because of a strained oblique after opening with a 75. Woods was 27th in the standings, but will slide out of the top 30 and needs a high finish in the BMW Championship in order to defend his title in the Tour Championship.
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