Johnson’s late slip at Tour Championship gives McIlroy a sniff

In-form Dustin Johnson’s late mistake on the 17th hole at the Tour Championship on Saturday allowed his rivals to play catch up, leaving the tournament and the FedEx Cup finely poised ahead of the final day.

The US Open Champion, fresh from victory at the BMW Championship, had looked to be running away with things, holding a four shot lead with just two holes to play at East Lake.

Then on the 17th hole, Johnson clipped a tree shooting out of the rough and ended up with a double bogey, a three-shot swing that threw his nearest rival Kevin Chappell back into the mix after he birdied the same hole.

Johnson recovered with a birdie on the par-five 18th to finish the day at eight under, level with Chappell.

"This course is very difficult off the tee and I missed a couple of drives on the back nine and made a couple of bogeys and a bad double bogey there on 17," said Johnson.

"I'm happy with my position. I felt like I played well today. A couple of loose drives and it's easy to make bogeys around here … so if I make a mistake I don't let it bother me."

Johnson’s late slip also left the door open for FedEx Cup rival Rory McIlroy, who is tied for third place with American Ryan Moore two shots back at six under.

Johnson, the top seed in the FedExCup standings, will win the season-long points race and the US$10 million bonus if he triumphs on Sunday.

McIlroy needs to win and have Johnson finish in a two way tie for second to usurp him from the top of the FedEx pile.

‘‘I just need to try and win this golf tournament, and whatever happens after that, happens,’’ McIlroy said after his round.

‘‘It would just be great to try to win the Tour Championship, and if the chips fall my way, then so be it.’’