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Dustin Johnson
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The Roundup

DJ Rises High in Mexico

by Matt Cooper

Recap of the day

Sergio Garcia made an early move with a 5-under-par 66 that set a clubhouse target of 7-under 135. Cameron Smith eased one shot back of that with a 66, but the eventual top four were still out on the course as Tiger Woods was completing a popular 66 of his own to reach 5-under at halfway. Rory McIlroy made a bright start, but lurched near the turn and could make little back nine headway. Nonetheless his 70 left him on 9-under and T2 alongside Matt Kuchar (67). Tommy Fleetwood struck a superb 65 to join European Ryder Cup team-mate Garcia in a tie for fourth, but no-one could catch the leader. Dustin Johnson did not appear to find fifth gear and yet it didn’t matter. He missed chances and still reached halfway with an unblemished scorecard and a two-shot lead on 11-under 131 after a Friday 67.

 

Leaderboard: -11 Dustin Johnson, -9 Rory McIlroy, Matt Kuchar, -7 Tommy Fleetwood, Sergio Garcia

 

Notables: -6 Cameron Smith, Ian Poulter, -5 Tiger Woods, -4 Francesco Molinari, Louis Oosthuizen, -3 Justin Thomas, E Hideki Matsuyama, +1 Paul Casey, +2 Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth, +6 Bryson DeChambeau

 

 

Low round of the day: Tommy Fleetwood and Phil Mickelson (65).

 

Revised outright betting: Johnson 6/5, McIlroy 11/4, Kuchar 15/2, Fleetwood 11/1, Garcia 16/1, Woods 22/1

 

 

Saturday weather forecast

Partly cloudy with a 20% chance of rain and temperatures in the mid-60s.

 

 

Leaders at 36 holes

Dustin Johnson (67, 131) – He split only half the fairways, but it mattered little in his quest to find the greens as he missed just the one all day. The only man bogey-free at this stage.

 

Rory McIlroy (70, 133) – His long game is strong this week, as he finds three in four of the fairways and had landed 30 of 36 greens in regulation. Those three dropped shots in four holes hurt, but will they be fatal?

 

Matt Kuchar (67, 133) – Burst from the block with four birdies in the opening four holes and naturally the paced slowed thereafter. In fact he made no more progress, but still has a strong sniff of completing the 2019 seasonal Mexican double.

 

Sergio Garcia (66, 135) – Missed only two fairways and just 4 of 18 greens in regulation, he also gained 2.791 strokes on the greens. Never been outside the top 20 at the end of a round on this course.

 

Tommy Fleetwood (65, 135) – Made a sensational start, hitting the first green in one and draining from 18’11” for eagle-2, then he holed out from 39-yards at the second for a repeat. Didn’t back off and completed the low round of the day.

 

 

Fate of the favorites

Justin Thomas (73, 139) – A sloppy effort with four bogeys posted against two birdies. His worst score in ten laps of the course in which he found only half the fairways and just 10 of 18 greens in regulation.

 

Dustin Johnson – see above

 

Rory McIlroy – see above

 

 

Quotes

Tiger Woods (66) – "The ball was sitting down just enough where I didn't think I could clear that tree. I also had 130-yards, but it's hard when the ball's sitting down like that. So I went back to try and cut it with an 8-iron and then I realized that's going to some out too hot, it's going to miss the slope. I ended up going back to the 9-iron and I realized, jeez, I've really got to slice this thing. So I opened up and gave it as much of a cut motion as I possibly could and it worked out."

 

Sergio Garcia (66) – “Much better than yesterday. Hit the ball a lot better. Just caught a tree on 18 from the tee. Left myself a long approach. If you drive it well, and you have to do that, you can be aggressive with the second shot.”

 

 

Road to victory at Chapultepec

2018 Phil Mickelson – R1: 13th, R2: 14th, R3: 2nd

2017 Dustin Johnson – R1: 20th, R2: 5th, R3: 2nd

 

Notes: Mickelson was quite a way off the pace at halfway, not only outside the top ten, but six strokes off the lead. For Johnson it was less so, but he was still three swings adrift after 36 holes.

 

 

Fate of the halfway leaders at Chapultepec – where did they finish?

2018 Shubhankar Sharma – 9th

2017 Rory McIlroy – 7th

 

Notes: A very small sample size, but McIlroy ended the week six strokes back and Sharma four.

 

 

Focus on – Tommy Fleetwood

Keep an eye on the Englishman this weekend because he has previous in rounds three and four. His round one scores? 69-72-70. Round two? 70-71-65. Round three? 66-67. And round four? 66-66. That’s 69.50 in the week (hugely boosted by his 65 in this year’s round two) and 66.25 at the weekend.

 

 

Focus on – The Spanish Armada

They might be speaking Spanish this week in Mexico City, but Spanish golfers have struggled in the history of the World Golf Championship. This week’s event is the 77th WGC tournament and there has not been one Spanish winner. Heading into the weekend Sergio Garcia has the best chance of rewriting that historical anomaly, but he has been here before: He has 12 strokeplay top ten finishes, seven of them top five. The win remains elusive.

 

 

Focus on – The South African Challenge

In the previous two editions of this tournament not one South African has managed a top 25 finish. Even in normal circumstances that would be a little unlikely, given the nation’s success just about everywhere. But the fairway grass here is kikuyu and the venue itself is at altitude. In other words it is very like the courses played whenever the European Tour visits the Johannesburg area. It seems unlikely that there will be a South African winner this week, but Richard SterneBranden Grace, George Coetzee, Erik van Rooyen and Louis Oosthuizen are all top 30 so that first top 25 might come this Sunday.

Matt Cooper