WASHINGTON (AFP) – Dustin Johnson edged closer to the USPGA Tour’s $10 million FedEx Cup playoff prize Friday, firing a three-under par 67 to seize a one-stroke lead in the season-ending Tour Championship in Atlanta, Georgia.
US Open champion Johnson, who arrived at East Lake Golf Club atop the playoff standings after his win at the BMW Championship two weeks ago, fired five birdies with two bogeys for a seven-under total of 133.
He was one shot in front of fellow American Kevin Chappell, who started the day in a three-way tie for the lead with Johnson and Hideki Matsuyama and signed for a second-round 68 for 134.
It was three shots back to Matsuyama, who shot a one-over par 71, and Kevin Kisner (70) on 137.
World number one Jason Day’s season ended in disappointing fashion as the Australian walked off before completing the eighth hole with back pain.
It’s the same injury that forced Day out of the final round of the BMW Championship, although he had voiced cautious optimism that his back would allow him to challenge for the win this week.
A statement from Day’s management team described the injury as a ‘‘strained ligament in his lower right back with a muscle spasm’’ and his withdrawal as a ‘‘precautionary measure.’’
The top five players in the playoff standings coming into the $8.5 million season finale can each claim the bonus with a victory.
Anyone lower in the standings must win and count on those top players finishing down the leaderboard – something that was looking less and less likely in Johnson’s case.
Chappell, seeking his first PGA Tour title, had three birdies in a row from the sixth through eighth. He bogeyed the 11th, but stayed steady coming in to keep himself in contention.
England’s Paul Casey, Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy and American Ryan Moore were tied for fifth on 138.
Scotland’s Russell Knox carded the low round of the day of 66 to join South Korea’s Kim Si-Woo and American Justin Thomas on 139, while defending champion Jordan Spieth was in a group on 140 that also included Australian Adam Scott.