AUGUSTA, Ga. — Dustin Johnson began his assault on Augusta National with a 5-iron for a tap-in eagle, and he never relented until he matched the 54-hole record at the Masters and built a four-shot lead to put himself in prime position for another major.
Johnson has been in this position before, and he plans to lean on his experience.
Not from the 82 he shot at Pebble Beach in the 2010 U.S. Open. Not the three-putt from 12 feet on a bumpy 18th green that cost him at Chambers Bay. Not even the one-shot lead he lost three months ago at Harding Park. They were among four times he had at least a share of the 54-hole lead in a major without converting.
He’s talking about the last three days at Augusta National. It’s been a masterful performance.
“If I can play like I did today, I think it will break that streak,” Johnson said Saturday. “Tomorrow, it’s just 18 holes of golf. I need to go out and play solid. I feel like I’m swinging really well. If I can just continue to give myself a lot of looks at birdie, I think I’ll have a good day.”
A third round that began with 10 players separated by one shot turned into a one-man show.
The No. 1 player in the world looked every bit the part with a 7-under 65, pulling away with the eagle and two birdies in the opening four holes, nearly holing a wedge from the seventh fairway, handling the par 5s on the back nine with two-putt birdies and going the last 30 holes without a bogey.
He was at 16-under 200, matching the 54-hole record Jordan Spieth set in 2015 when he won the Masters by four shots over Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose.
The cast of challengers are not nearly as experienced.
Two of them are Masters rookies. Sungjae Im, the supreme ball-striker from South Korea who won his first PGA Tour title two weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down golf in the spring, birdied the last hole for 68. Abraham Ancer of Mexico saved par on the 18th for a 69.
Joining them at 12-under 204 was Cameron Smith of Australia, who had 12 straight pars before running off three straight birdies and then closing with three scrambling pars for a 69.
“He’s been there before multiple times, and No. 1 in the world,” Ancer said. “I think he’s right where he wants to be. We know that we have to go low, and that’s it. It’s very simple. If DJ goes out there and plays really solid like today, it’s going to be pretty much impossible to catch him. Whatever has to be done out there has to be pretty special.”
Still, there is enormous pressure on Johnson because of his history. He has not converted two 54-hole leads, nor has he won at two majors where he shared the 54-hole lead. His only major was the 2016 U.S. Open when he rallied from four shots behind at Oakmont.
“Anyone with a four-shot lead is expected to win,” Smith said. “There’s going to be plenty of boys firing tomorrow.”
Attacking flags is what Augusta National has allowed in November, with rain earlier in the week and warm, calm conditions that have kept the turf soft and vulnerable.
Johnson, who had to sit out two tournaments after testing positive for the coronavirus a month ago, still came into the Masters having won twice, finishing runner-up three times and tying for sixth in the U.S. Open.
“I’m very comfortable with having the lead going into tomorrow. I’ve been in this situation a lot of times,” Johnson said. “I’m looking forward to the challenge. It’s still going to be a tough day. I’m going to have to play well if I want to get it done.”
Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm had their chances only to make untimely mistakes. Rahm nearly topped his second shot on the par-5 eighth, which he attributed to mud on his golf ball, and hit his next one off a tree and into the bushes on his way to a double bogey.
Thomas sailed his second shot over the 15th green and into the water, making bogey on a par 5 where he was hoping to make up ground. Both bogeyed the 18th hole. Thomas shot 71, Rahm had a 72.
Asked to describe his day, Rahm didn’t mince words.
“Seriously? How would I describe? Pretty awful,” he said.
Starting times for the final round have been moved up to finish by 3 p.m. so CBS can honour its NFL contract, and it will be threesomes off both tees. And just like all week, and all year, there will be no roars to add to the pressure.
“Unfortunately for all of us chasing DJ is there’s no fans or nothing to make that moment even harder, to have the buzz, to have the adrenaline, to have a little bit more pressure put on him that won’t be there this year,” Thomas said.
Defending champion Tiger Woods will stick around Sunday to present the green jacket, and he’ll have to leave his at Augusta National until he returns.
Woods was 4 under through 10 holes to start the Masters, and he picked up only one more shot over the next 44 holes. He finished off a 71 in the second round Saturday morning, had a 72 in the third round and was 11 shots behind.
U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau was more dizzy than sore. He felt so odd on Thursday night that he had another COVID-19 test to be sure — it came back negative — and the betting favourite of this Masters was in the middle of the pack, 13 shots behind.
The scoring has been low all week. The 36-hole cut Saturday morning was at even-par 144, the lowest in Masters history, another update to the club’s record book.
Still in front of Johnson is a chance to set the 72-hole record. All he cares about is a green jacket, and given his past experience, he knows better than to look ahead.
Diego Maradona death: Police search home, clinic of star's personal doctor, seize files – National Post
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In later years, Maradona struggled with substance abuse issues. “Diego was tired, tired of being ‘Maradona’,” Luque said.
The player’s lawyer, Matias Moria, on Thursday said he would ask for a full investigation of the circumstances of the soccer legend’s death, saying the health workers caring for the star were negligent.
“It is inexplicable that for 12 hours my friend has not had attention or control from the health personnel,” Moria wrote on social media. “The ambulance took more than half an hour to arrive, which was a criminal idiocy.” Prosecutors say it took 12 minutes for the ambulance to arrive.
Luque said faster ambulance service would not have saved Maradona’s life. “You would have needed medical equipment at his house, including a respirator,” he told reporters.
“If I am responsible of something, it is of loving him and taking care of him, extending his life and improving it until the end,” Luque said. “I am not responsible for this.”
A tearful Luque described Maradona as a difficult patient who often argued with the medical staff.
“Diego needed help,” he said. “Diego was hard. Diego kicked me out of his house and then called me again. That was the relationship, the one of a rebellious father with a son.”
— with files from the Washington Post
Report: Minor, Royals agree to 2-year deal – TSN
Left-handed starting pitcher Mike Minor is in agreement to sign a two-year deal with the Kansas City Royals, according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and MLB Network’s Mark Feinsand.
Free-agent left-hander Mike Minor in agreement with Royals, pending physical, sources tell The Athletic.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 30, 2020
Minor will join the Royals for the second time in his career pending a physical. He signed a two-year deal with the club worth $7.25 million in 2016.
Minor split last season with the Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics. He has a 1-6 record in 2020 with a 5.56 earned-run average.
Jaguars fire GM Dave Caldwell following 10th straight loss – Sportsnet.ca
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Jacksonville Jaguars fired general manager Dave Caldwell on Sunday after the team’s 10th consecutive loss and sending a clear message that the small-market franchise is headed in a new direction.
It was a move many thought owner Shad Khan should have made at the end of last season. But Khan gave Caldwell another chance to make Jacksonville a playoff contender for just the second time in his eight-year tenure.
Caldwell came up well short of the owner’s winning expectations, making Khan’s decision an easy and somewhat expected one.
Khan will keep coach Doug Marrone and his staff in place to finish out the season and likely let the next general manager decide his fate. It would be stunning to see Marrone return in 2021.
“I’ve met with Dave Caldwell to express my appreciation for his service to the Jacksonville Jaguars as our general manager,” Khan said in a statement that followed the team’s 27-25 loss to Cleveland. “Dave was exceptionally committed and determined to bring a winner to Jacksonville, but unfortunately his efforts were not rewarded with the results our fans deserve and our organization expects.
“Our football operation needs new leadership, and we will have it with a new general manager in 2021.”
The Jaguars are 39-87 since Khan gave Caldwell his first GM job in 2013, falling a few plays shy of the franchise’s first Super Bowl in 2018 and miring mostly in mediocrity since. The Jaguars (1-10) have dropped 16 of their last 19 games, including 11 by double digits.
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