Holder Dustin Johnson remained on course for a successful title defence at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii as he ended a wildly fluctuating third round in a three-way tie for the lead on Sunday.
Johnson, who spectacularly eagled the par-five ninth after hitting a four-iron 211 yards to within two feet of the pin, fired a four-under-par 69 in sunny but breezy conditions at the picturesque Kapalua Resort.
He had a chance to seize the outright lead at the par-five last but narrowly missed his birdie attempt from 15 feet to finish at 14-under 205, level with fellow Americans Webb Simpson (68) and Jordan Spieth (69).
Overnight leader Zach Johnson was two ahead of the chasing pack with seven holes to play but bogeyed 14 and 16 on the way to a 74 and fourth place at 12-under.
Dustin Johnson won last year’s title, his seventh on the PGA Tour, by three shots in a tournament reduced to three rounds and forced to a rare Tuesday finish because of relentless howling winds at the Kapalua Resort.
He began Sunday’s third round three strokes off the pace and launched his timely surge up the leaderboard with his stunning eagle at the ninth.
“I hit a great drive down there right to the end of the fairway and had a good number, 211 (yards) with uphill,” Johnson told Golf Channel. “I just hit a great four-iron right at the flag and it ended up being pretty close.”
Asked how he would attempt to close the deal in Monday’s final round in pursuit of his ninth PGA Tour victory, Johnson replied: “I’ve got to take advantage of the par-fives.
“Today, I made a birdie and an eagle but I parred the two on the back nine which is poor for me, especially (after) hitting good drives.”
Simpson, the 2012 U.S. Open champion, birdied four of the last seven holes to set the clubhouse lead at 14 under.
Zach Johnson bogeyed the par-four 16th after a wayward tee shot ended up in an unplayable lie, while Dustin Johnson and Spieth, at the 16th and 17th, rolled in 15-footers to join Simpson in a three-way tie at the top.