Points leader Johnson shot a third successive round in the 60s to reach eight under par on Saturday and maintain his grip on the $10million dollar end of season prize. A runner-up finish to 54-hole co-leader Kevin Chappell on Sunday night would be enough to secure his maiden Fedex Cup trophy.
American Chappell, who is seeking a debut PGA Tour victory and a potential spot on next weeks’ US Ryder Cup team, fired a third round 68 and will play in the final group again on Sunday after dropping just one shot all tournament.
Northern Irishman Mcilroy fired a bogey-free best of the day 66 to leap into contention and lie just two shots off the lead on minus six and were the world number four to win on Sunday, only Johnson finishing second alone would prevent him lifting both trophies in Georgia.
The four-time major champion will play with Ryan Moore on Sunday, who is also looking to catch the eye of Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III before Monday’s final wildcard pick is announced.
England’s Paul Casey also shot in the 60s, but could only pick up one shot on his overnight total and lies in a tie for seventh on minus three with 18 holes of the season remaining.
Scotland’s Russell Knox was the only player to shoot over par in the top ten, falling back into a tie for 11th on even par.
Last year’s Fedex Cup and TOUR Championship winner Jordan Spieth went round in two over par for the second day running and at two over overall will not be defending the two crowns he lifted at East Lake a year ago.
Phil Mickelson recorded his first under par round for the week, but could only move to five over for the tournament and lies in 26th position in the field of 29 players – reduced from 30 after the withdrawal of world number one Jason Day with a back injury on Friday afternoon.
TOUR Championship leaderboard after round three (East Lake Golf Club, par 70) * = US Unless stated
-8 Dustin Johnson, Kevin Chappell
-6 Rory Mcilroy (NIR), Ryan Moore
-5 Hideki Matsuyama (JPN)
-4 Jason Dufner
-3 Charl Schwartzel (RSA), Paul Casey (ENG)
-2 Justin Thomas
-1 Emiliano Grillo (ARG)
E Russell Knox
+1 Bubba Watson
+2 Jordan Spieth
+5 Phil Mickelson
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