Stricker carves up Riviera en route to lead |

Stricker carves up Riviera en route to lead

AP Golf Writer

LOS ANGELES – Steve Stricker hit enough crisp irons and made his usual share of putts to pull away from the field at Riviera and build a five-shot lead going into the final day of the rain-delayed Northern Trust Open.

Stricker was at 14-under par and had a 30-foot birdie putt on the 15th hole when it was too dark to continue. He will return this morning to finish the third round.

Luke Donald finished his round at 5-under 66 just before the siren sounded and was the clubhouse leader at 9-under 204.

Andres Romero, playing in the final group with Stricker and 36-hole leader Dustin Johnson, also was at 9 under.

The tournament caught a huge break with the weather. A storm system off the California coast managed to dodge Riviera in the afternoon, leaving mostly sunny conditions and allowing for enough play that the tournament should end today.

Johnson returned Saturday morning to play two holes to finish his second round, and it turned out to be quite an advantage.

A day after some players couldn’t reach the 18th green with a 3-wood, Johnson flew a 9-iron over the green and deep into the soggy turf.

After a free drop, he chipped in for birdie to complete a 67 and the lead.

But that didn’t last long.

Johnson hooked his tee shot into the deep grass well left of the third fairway and never found it. He had to return to the tee to play his third shot, scrambled for a double bogey and it rattled him.

Stricker, meanwhile, was practically flawless.

During a seven-hole stretch in the middle of his round, Stricker gave himself birdie chances inside 15 feet on six holes. He made from 15 feet on the sixth and from just inside 10 feet on the eighth, after hitting into a ditch.

The exception came on the ninth, where Stricker drove into the left bunker and had to hit to the fairway.