Anything is possible with Johnson, and McIlroy saw that Saturday. He wound up hitting into the water and made bogey.
He missed the birdie putt, but that's a 10/10 on the difficulty scale. "I didn't let it bother me because I knew I was playing well and I knew that there were still plenty of holes I could make birdie on coming down the stretch".
After a short par putt lipped out at 14 he birdied 15 and 16 as he tried to keep Johnson in his sights. He had birdies on the fifth, 11th, 12th and, after a wonderful pitch, on the 15th. "I'm doing everything well. I'm thinking it's going to at least take 10 (under) to maybe even a 59 depending on how he finishes the day".
Johnson carded five-under-par 66 to remain on course for a second win in three years at the World Golf Championships event, and a 20th victory of his PGA Tour career.
Johnson had the 36-hole lead at 11 under, two strokes over first-round leader McIlroy and Matt Kuchar.
He started the final round with a four-shot lead. Johnson got a break when he was given free relief from a sprinkler line, though the lie wasn't much better and the next shot smacked a tree trunk and headed into the bushes. He and Poulter shared third place with Thai Kiradech Aphibarnrat.
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For the weekend, Woods hit 31 of 36 greens but played those holes in just 3 under par.
At one point during the third round of the WGC-Mexico Championship, Dustin Johnson's lead was six.
"The ball was sitting down just enough where I didn't think I could clear that tree", he said. "I kept myself in some sort of touch with D.J., which I had to work to do". Johnson can join them if he can finish off things on Sunday.
So while McIlroy has little choice to attack in the final round, it might not be all up to him.
McIlroy is going for his own 15th PGA Tour win in just his 154th start (Johnson has almost 250 starts). He said he will approach Sunday's final round with the same strategy he had the first three days.