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Johnson emerges with lead at Doral

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By DOUG FERGUSON
The Associated Press
Saturday, March 12, 2011; 7:27 PM

DORAL, Fla. -- Dustin Johnson didn't start the season the way he wanted, not with only one decent chance at winning.

His start at the Cadillac Championship wasn't much better.

On his opening tee shot Thursday at Doral, his drive sailed to the right and struck a spectator in the head. Turns out it was his grandfather, Art Whisnant, a former basketball star at South Carolina.

Suddenly, everything is looking up.

Johnson hit his stride and found his swagger Saturday on the back nine of the Blue Monster, shooting a 31 to emerge from a crowd of top players with a 7-under 65 and a two-shot lead going into the final round.

The 26-year-old American hit what he called a "bunt drive" that went 310 yards on the 17th, leaving him a wedge into 2 feet. That was the last of his eight birdies, and put him atop the leaderboard. A short time later, after Nick Watney missed two short birdie putts and put his tee shot into the water on No. 18, Johnson had the lead to himself.

"I played well today - drove it well, putt it well, hit the ball well," Johnson said. "So I'm going to have to do that again tomorrow."

One look at the guys behind him makes that clear.

Johnson was at 13-under 203, although seven players were within three shots of him, none lower than No. 31 in the world.

That group does not include Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, who finished before the leaders teed off and remain out of the mix. The surprise is that it doesn't include Martin Kaymer, either. The new No. 1 was in the final group with Hunter Mahan, one shot out of the lead, until he took double bogey from the water on the third hole and struggled to a 74. Kaymer was seven shots back.

Johnson will play in the final group with Luke Donald, who took bogey on the final hole for a 66. Even so, Donald is in good position to capture a second straight World Golf Championship, and a victory could be enough to make him No. 2 in the world.

Watney, who had to settle for a 68 after his double bogey on the 18th, and Matt Kuchar (68) were with Donald at 11-under 205.


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© 2011 The Associated Press

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