AUSTIN, Texas — Dustin Johnson had reason to be rattled. As he walked off the 12th green Saturday afternoon, the match referee said five words that Johnson heard for the first time all week in the Dell Technologies Match Play.
“The match is all square.”
Until then, Johnson had led after each of the 71 holes he had played at Austin Country Club.
He wasted little time responding to a rare challenge. Johnson birdied three of the next four holes for a 3-and-2 victory over Alex Noren to advance to the semifinals and stay on track for a potential showdown between No. 1 in the world and Jon Rahm, golf’s brightest young star.
“I wasn’t frustrated that I was all square. I was frustrated that I kind of gave 10 and 11 away,” Johnson said. “Came back strong after losing three holes in a row.”
Rahm was so dominant he played only 27 holes in two matches Saturday. He hasn’t had a match go longer than 14 holes since Thursday. And the 22-year-old rookie from Spain still hasn’t played the 18th hole since a practice round Tuesday.
Rahm lost only one of the 27 holes he played in his 6-and-4 victory over Charles Howell III and his 7-and-5 victory over Soren Kjeldsen in the quarterfinals.
Rahm faces a semifinal match Sunday morning against Bill Haas, who ended Phil Mickelson’s hopes with a 2-and-1 victory. Mickelson had advanced to the quarterfinals for the first time in 13 years with a victory against Marc Leishman.
Mickelson never trailed in any match until he fell behind on the first hole to Haas, and he had never led when the match ended on the 17th hole.
Johnson, going after a third straight PGA Tour title, faces one of this tournament’s biggest surprises in Hideko Tanihara of Japan.
Tanihara began the week by beating Jordan Spieth. On Saturday, he took down Paul Casey with two late birdies in the morning fourth round, and then he beat Ross Fisher, 4 and 2, to reach the semifinals.
Johnson has looked unstoppable all month.
He went to No. 1 in the world with a five-shot victory at Riviera. In his next start, he won the Mexico Championship after holding off a late rally from Rahm. Now he’s two victories away from becoming the first player to sweep the four World Golf Championships.