ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – With the fairways baked and brakeless, the oft-employed strategy off the tee on the Old Course is get your ball on the ground and let it run.
But you still need to get it in the air, initially.
Dustin Johnson nearly skipped that latter part Saturday at the par-4 18th. With a fairway wood in hand, Johnson hit a scooter, 282 yards down the fairway. The ball, however, barely got off the ground and barely cleared the burn in front of the tee.
Did he top it?
“No comment,” playing competitor Scottie Scheffler said with a laugh.
Johnson didn’t have a comment, either, as he didn’t speak with the media following his round.
But Scheffler did provide a little insight.
“Yeah, he walks away and he's like, ‘Wow, tried to hit it low but didn't mean to try to hit it that low.’ I don't know if he topped it or not. We were walking off the tee, and DJ looks at me, and he goes, ‘Man, I forgot to get the cover there,’” Scheffler said.
“It carried the burn by like 10 yards.”
Johnson ended up making birdie on the hole, as did Scheffler. It was the conclusion to a what-if day for both players. Scheffler shot 3-under 69 to finish at 11 under. Johnson carded a 71 and was a stroke further back.
Rory McIlroy and Viktor Hovland share the 54-hole lead in the 150th Open Championship at 16 under. Scheffler and Johnson could have been much closer.
Both men were 12 under through 11 holes, but Scheffler had two bogeys and that lone birdie coming in. Johnson bogeyed Nos. 13, 14 and 16 before his narrow escape at the last. His dropped shot at the par-5 14th came after he putted through the green and into a bunker.
“I felt like we played really good and then kind of struggled and finished with birdies on 18,” Scheffler said. “We kind of were going hand in hand out there.”