Johnson had an adventurous outward nine, two bogeys and four birdies on a brilliant sunny day in the Pacific Northwest putting him at two-under, one clear of South African Branden Grace and two in front of Masters champion Jordan Spieth.
One of the longest courses ever for a golf major, Chambers Bay was tailor-made for Johnson, who has relied on his power to get him into contention for a first major while Grace and Spieth depended on a delicate touch on and around the tricky greens.
Grace, a six-time winner on the European Tour, produced a rock solid outward nine that featured birdies at the fifth and eighth before he dropped his first shot of the day at the ninth.
Chambers Bay is a picture postcard venue hard against Puget Sound but it has been widely criticised by golfers and commentators with the attacks growing louder with each day.
While most of the grumbling has been directed at the bumpy and undulating greens, Spieth proved they can be conquered as he rolled in a 38-foot birdie putt at the second to move two ahead after Patrick Reed double-bogeyed the same hole.
The Masters champion continued to wield a hot putter and drained a 40-footer for birdie at the third to open up a three-shot cushion.
But even the best putter in the game would have his problems on the controversial greens and Spieth’s wobble came at the fourth where he three-putted from 30 feet for his first bogey of the day.
That bogey was followed by another at the fifth and suddenly Spieth’s three-shot advantage had vanished as he dropped back into a tie for the lead with Grace.
Australian Jason Day, who had sent a fright through the galleries on Friday when he suddenly collapsed on his final hole while suffering from vertigo, was back at Chambers Bay on Saturday and bravely battling.
Sitting just three shots off the lead overnight and in contention for a first major, the world number 10 displayed his grit in the third round as he hung tough at one-over through 13 holes to remain in touch with the leaders.
Despite calm conditions, South African Louis Oosthuizen was the only player among the early starters able to make a big move as he carded a four-under 66 to jump up the leaderboard into the top 10 at one-under. – Reuters
Original source: Big-hitting Johnson takes lead