NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) – Dustin Johnson wasn’t even expecting to be in the Bahamas for the Hero World Challenge. He was tied for the lead Friday with Hideki Matsuyama, who has reason to expect being at the top of any tournament he plays.
Six shots behind was Tiger Woods, who shot a 7-under 65 without anyone in his way.
Johnson ran off three straight birdies early in his round, moved into contention with an eagle and closed with a fearless drive down the middle of the water-lined 18th fairway at Albany that set up a birdie for a 66.
Matsuyama had the lead to himself until a bogey from the bunker on the par-3 17th. He shot a 67 to tie Johnson at 12-under 132.
They were two shots ahead of Louis Oosthuizen and Matt Kuchar, who each shot 67.
Asked if he was more surprised to be tied with Johnson or six shots ahead of Woods, Matsuyama smiled wide.
“I’m happy for both,’’ he said. “Tiger has been my idol since I was little. It’s great to have him back. I know he can win again.’’
No one knows winning like Matsuyama over the last few months. He has three victories in his last four starts around the world – the other was a runner-up finish in Malaysia – which includes his first World Golf Championship title at the HSBC Champions.
Matsuyama is not sure he wants this year to end.
“I hope I can keep playing well this week, and continue to play this well going into next year,’’ he said.
Johnson was scheduled to play an exhibition against Rory McIlroy in the Philippines on Tuesday, and while he thought about a trip halfway around the world to get to the Bahamas on time, he was resigned to sitting this one out. But he never withdrew in case the exhibition fell through, and it did.
In only his second tournament since the Ryder Cup, Johnson had most parts of his game in working order.
“I haven’t put in much practice, but starting now, I’ll be kind of getting ready for next year,’’ Johnson said. “I didn’t lose much, I guess.’’
Defending champion Bubba Watson had the low round of the tournament with a 63 that left him three shots behind.
J.B. Holmes and Jordan Spieth each had reason to believe they could be closer to the lead.
Holmes, who opened with a 64, was leading at 12 under when he pulled his tee shot on the par-3 12th into the water.
The ball only partially submerged, he tried to play it, but it came back into the water. The next shot barely got on the green, and he took double bogey. Then, he drove wild into the dunes on the 18th, had to play back to the fairway and eventually three-putted for a triple bogey. That gave him a 73, and he was five shots behind.
Spieth, coming off a victory in the Australian Open two weeks ago, was at 9 under and thinking birdie on the 18th with about a 30-foot putt. He missed a 4-footer for par, missed the next one and walked off with a four-putt double bogey. That gave him a 69, and he was five behind.