PGA Championship - Round Three
Credit: Getty Images

Last year, Dustin Johnson went to sleep in second place at the 2019 PGA Championship at Bethpage Black, seven shots behind Brooks Koepka.

The 2016 U.S. Open champion made a Sunday charge, though, getting within one shot with three to play before bogeying 16 and 17 to finish two shots back of Koepka, his fifth career top five finish at the PGA Championship.

After firing a third-round 5-under-par 65 on Saturday at TPC Harding Park, Johnson will go to bed as the 54-hole leader at the 2020 PGA Championship, hoping his past near-misses guide him to the Wanamaker Trophy by Lake Merced.

“Well, yeah, I definitely have experience in this situation that definitely will help tomorrow,” Johnson, who sits at 9-under-par, said after his round. “I've been in the hunt a bunch of times in a major. I've got one major, so having that experience is definitely going to be beneficial tomorrow.

“You know, but it's one of those things. Still going to have to go out and play really good golf. This is a tough golf course. Greens are getting really firm. They are fast. So, I think the wind is going to blow again tomorrow, so it's going to play difficult. I look forward to the challenge, and you know, I will definitely be relying on a lot of that experience that I have.”

Johnson, who began the day four shots back of 36-hole leader Haotong Li at 4-under-par, carded four birdies on his front nine but squandered the early momentum with a double-bogey six at the Par-4 ninth hole.

PGA Championship - Round Three
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 08: Dustin Johnson of the United States lines up a putt on the second green during the third round of the 2020 PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park on August 08, 2020 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The back nine gave players fits all day Saturday, but Johnson cruised through the toughest stretch of the course, coming in with a 4-under 31 on the back nine to take the lead.

Johnson had several close calls at major championships early in his career before finally breaking through at the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont. Now older and wiser, Johnson knows what it will take to fend off a packed leaderboard full of past major champions on Sunday.

“Well, those, I was definitely younger,” Johnson said of his past major misses at Pebble Beach, Whistling Straights and Chambers Bay. “I have been out here awhile now. I've been in contention a lot, and I've got it done a lot of times. Tomorrow, it's no different.  I need to be out -- I'm going to have to play good golf if I want to win.  It's simple; I've got to hit a lot of fairways and a lot of greens. If I can do that tomorrow, I’m going to have a good chance coming down the stretch on the back nine.”

Sundays at major championships normally produce roars that make the ground shake and alert players to movement elsewhere on the course.

With no fans in attendance at TPC Harding Park, it will be a different feel for Johnson and those going off late Sunday afternoon. But you won’t find Johnson scoreboard watching while chasing major championship No. 2.

“Yeah, I'm going to try my best not to do that,” Johnson said. “All I can do is go out and play my game and shoot the best number I can. I'm going to just try and go out and shoot as low as I can tomorrow just like I did today. You know, just take what the golf course gives me and just keep on going because, you know, it doesn't really matter what other guys are doing.  All I can control is myself.

“I'm going to be in a good position no matter what, and you know, tomorrow I'm just going to have to go out and do what I did today. Just get it done.”

Eighteen holes Sunday at TPC Harding Park are all that stand between Johnson and the Wanamaker Trophy. No pressure.

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