By Mark Lamport-Stokes
PACIFIC PALISADES, California (Reuters) - Americans Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson share much in common heading into the final round of the Northern Trust Open on Sunday as prime contenders for the title.
Both men are renowned for their power hitting, which has featured prominently this week high up on the tournament leaderboard, and they are both unabashed admirers of the iconic and always challenging Riviera layout.
Watson, however, has two advantages over Johnson as he targets a ninth career victory on the PGA Tour.
Unlike Johnson, he has won here before, in 2014, and he will start the final round at Riviera with a one-stroke lead over his compatriot.
"The benefit is I know I can do it," twice Masters champion Watson, 37, told reporters after firing a four-under 67 on Saturday to edge one shot clear on a tightly bunched leaderboard.
"I know I can go bogey-free because when I won here (in 2014), I did it over the weekend, and knowing that I can make putts around here, and knowing that the holes ... most of them are good for me, a good fit for me."
Two years ago, Watson clinched the Northern Trust Open title by two shots after a flawless display over the weekend as he fired successive 64s.
"Overall, knowing that I've won here and knowing that I can play around here, obviously I have a little bit of an advantage on the guy that probably hasn't won here," said the left-hander.
Johnson, however, has come desperately close at Riviera with runner-up finishes in each of the last two years.
"This is a tournament that I really enjoy playing," said the 31-year-old American, a nine-times winner on the PGA Tour. "I really like this golf course, and obviously I've done well here the past couple years. I'd love to win this one."
Johnson knows full well that whoever putts best among the contenders on Sunday on Riviera’s daunting greens with their subtle breaks is likely to emerge the winner.
"Any hole out here, it's easy to miss putts," said the athletic, loose-limbed Johnson. "There's a bunch of difficult holes where four is a good score.
"But there's a lot of holes where you can make birdie. Just keep doing what I'm doing. Get it in the fairway and then attack the course when I can."
(Editing by Andrew Both)