Dustin Johnson races into halfway lead at FedEx St Jude Classic
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 11/06/18 12:47am
Dustin Johnson put himself on course to reclaim the world No 1 ranking after an entertaining second-round 63 earned him the halfway lead at the FedEx St Jude Classic.
Johnson's 64-week reign at the top of the world rankings was ended by Justin Thomas at The Players Championship last month, but the pair would swap positions again if Johnson remains at the top of the leaderboard in Memphis on Sunday evening.
Johnson gave himself an excellent platform to head into next week's US Open on the back of a victory after he recovered from two early mistakes to put on a superb display of ball-striking and solid putting in hot and humid conditions at TPC Southwind.
Johnson began with a birdie at the 10th before pulled drives into the lush rough at 12 and 13 both led to bogeys, but he restored parity immediately when he rolled in a 20-foot putt for birdie at the next.
The 33-year-old picked up another shot at the long 16th despite racing his eagle putt 12 feet past the cup, and he started the front nine with a perfect 111-yard wedge which hopped into the hole for a stunning eagle-two before coming within an inch of repeating the feat from three yards further away on the very next hole.
Johnson followed the tap-in birdie with another at the third and, after nailing another mid-range putt at the sixth, he converted from six feet at the ninth to complete a classy front-nine 29 which set the early clubhouse target at 10-under par.
DJ's amazing chip-in
Dustin Johnson pitched in for birdie on day one despite having one foot in the water
"I'm swinging the club well," said Johnson. "I know if I can drive it in the fairway then I'm going to give myself a good look for birdie, and I felt like I did that pretty much all day. I hit a lot of great shots in there, and had a lot of good looks at birdie."
Johnson's score held up for the remainder of the round as he ended the day one-shot ahead of fellow Americans Ryan Blaum and Andrew Putnam, who both returned six-under 64s.
But the biggest mover of the second day was a resurgent Brandt Snedeker, who vaulted 71 places up the leaderboard to seven under with a sparkling 62 featuring eight birdies and not a single blemish on his card.
Overnight leader Seamus Power appeared the main threat to Johnson's lead as the Irish Olympian birdied three of his first four holes and got to nine under when he holed from 30 feet for his fifth birdie of the round at the fifth - his 14th.
But he bogeyed the next and then made a big mistake at the ninth when he tugged his approach from the rough into the water hazard, leading to a double-bogey six which was an unfortunate end to a 69 which left him four strokes off the lead.
Brooks Koepka, who will defend his US Open title at Shinnecock Hills next week, struggled to make much happen as he made only two birdies against one bogey to close on five under, while Phil Mickelson is one further back after birdies at two of the last three holes salvaged a 70.