PEBBLE BEACH, CALIF.—Dustin Johnson overcame a sloppy back nine in the stiffening breeze by making a 10-foot birdie on the 18th hole at Pebble Beach for a 2-under 70 that gave him a share of the lead going into the final round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
Ted Potter Jr. shot a 62 at Monterey Peninsula and left wondering how much better it could have been. Potter, with virtually no one watching his round because the stars were at Pebble on Saturday, was 11 under with three holes to play, needing only one birdie and two pars for a 59.
He bogeyed the last two holes, which at least was enough to tie for the lead.
“I didn’t feel like I hit bad shots coming in there on the last couple, making bogeys there, but I just knew it was going to be tough coming in,” Potter said.
They were at 14-under 201, and with more wind in the forecast — compared with virtually none the previous two days — this could be wide open.
Johnson is going for his second straight PGA Tour victory having won by eight shots at Kapalua to start the year. He also is virtually assured of being only the fifth player since the world ranking began in 1986 to be No. 1 for an entire year.
Jason Day, coming off a playoff victory at Torrey Pines two weeks ago, had a 69 at Pebble Beach and was two shots behind along with Troy Merritt, who had the lead until four bogeys over his last six holes at Monterey Peninsula for a 69.
Jon Rahm birdied his last three holes at Spyglass Hill and worked his way back into contention with a 70. He was in a group at 11 under that included 50-year-old Steve Stricker (70) and Patrick Rodgers (69).
Also in the mix was Phil Mickelson, though he made it harder on himself with a three-putt bogey on the 18th at Pebble Beach for a 72. Mickelson had gone 46 consecutive holes without a bogey, though he managed only one birdie Saturday at Pebble Beach.
Rory McIlroy’s debut in this tournament was a short one. He hit into the ocean with an iron on the par-5 sixth hole leading to bogey. He finished with a drive that bounced along the rocks left of the 18th hole, though he took his penalty drop, hit the pin with his third shot and finished with a birdie. No matter. He still managed a 72 and missed the cut by two shots.
Johnson would appear to be the man to beat on Sunday, though he has a mixed history at Pebble Beach — and atop the leaderboard.
He won in 2009 when the final round was wiped out by rain (he had a four-shot lead over Mike Weir). He won in 2010 with a 74 in the final round. He also squandered a three-shot lead in the 2010 U.S. Open with an 82 in the final round.
And it was just three months ago that he tied a PGA Tour record by losing a six-shot lead in the final round.
Even so, he showed why he has been No. 1 the last year with an approach to the par-5 second hole that settled 4 feet from the cup for an eagle , with a wedge that checked up a foot from the hole on No. 4 and with a 30-foot birdie putt on No. 7.
That stretched his lead to three shots at the time. That also was the last birdie he made until the 18th hole. Johnson got out of position into bunkers on the 10th and 12th holes for bogeys, missed a 3-foot birdie putt on the 14th and flew the green on the windy par-3 17th hole, the ball finally stopping on the 18th tee. That led to his third bogey on the back nine, and suddenly he had company.
Walking off the 14th green, the video board showed Potter with his ninth birdie (he also had an eagle) at Monterey Peninsula. They will be in the final group Sunday, along with their amateur partners.
Potter’s only PGA Tour victory was at the Greenbrier Classic in 2012. He missed all of 2015 with a severe ankle injury from stepping off a curb, and he worked his way back to the big leagues last year. Now he faces the biggest test — some wind at Pebble Beach, a share of the lead with the No. 1 player in the world.