Bryant Still in Command at East Lake


2005 Tour ChampionshipATLANTA -- Bart Bryant holed out from a bunker on his 18th hole Saturday to shoot a 4-under 66 and move three clear after three rounds of the Tour Championship.
His 14-under-par-196 total established a new 54-hole record, bettering Tom Lehman's old mark from 1996 by one. It's been a record-setting week for Bryant, who won this year's Memorial. On Thursday, he posted a new course record at East Lake Golf Club with an 8-under 62.
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods was once again erratic, but managed to stay in contention.
'I hit the ball solid all day, said Bryant, who has owned at least a piece of the lead after every round. 'I'm a little surprised in my mind, but I'm sure I'm a surprise in a lot of people's minds that I'm leading at this point.'
Defending champion and overnight co-leader Retief Goosen managed a 1-under 69 on Saturday and is alone in second place at 11-under-par 199.
Tiger Woods, who won this title in 1999, birdied three of his last five holes Saturday, en route to a 67. The reigning Masters and British Open champion is alone in third place at 10-under-par 200.
Woods birdied 14 and 15 to get to 9 under par, then rolled in a 5-footer for birdie at the 17th. On the par-3 closing hole, Woods landed in a front bunker, but blasted out to 4 feet. He converted the par putt to get within four of Bryant's lead.
'Overall, I felt like I was swinging the club a lot better today,' said Woods, who hit the stick at the par-3 11th, but missed the birdie putt after the ball ran 15 feet from the hole. 'I had better control of my shots.'
Woods has not had great control of his drives this week. He leads this elite, 29-man field in driving distance to the tune of 325 yards, but is dead last in accuracy, hitting only 33 percent of the fairways.
'I hit some good drives that ended up in tough spots, but I also hit some pretty bad drives,' acknowledged Woods. 'The fairways are a little faster. I am hitting it farther and with less effort, which is nice.'
Bryant has certainly had no problems statistically this week. He shares the lead in the tournament in fairways hit and is first in greens in regulation.
He flew out of the gate on Saturday with a 5-foot birdie putt at the first, but it was Goosen who took the lead early in the third round. The two-time U.S. Open winner birdied one from 8 feet, then tapped in a short birdie putt at the second. Goosen took a two-shot lead when his 10-foot birdie putt at the sixth disappeared in the cup.
Things turned for the first time at the seventh. Goosen found a pair of bunkers on the way to making a bogey. Bryant knocked his approach inside a foot and tapped in for the birdie to tie for the lead.
Goosen bogeyed eight to fall one back and both players birdied the par-5 ninth. Bryant gave a shot back at 13 when his drive in the left rough forced him into a difficult stance.
Bryant rolled in a 5-foot birdie putt at the 14th to reclaim the top spot on the leaderboard. From there, it was a combination of Goosen mistakes and a clutch bunker shot that gave Bryant his three-stroke cushion.
Bryant made a routine par at the 17th, but Goosen hit a mediocre approach to 45 feet. He three-putted for a bogey and was two behind.
At the par-3 18th, both players were in the same bunker, and Bryant went first. His bunker shot ultimately fell into the cup and Goosen got up and down from 5 feet for par to remain three off the lead.
'I'm going to try to get some good rest tonight and come out tomorrow and stick with the same game plan, try and get it in the fairway,' said Bryant. 'I think if I continue to do that, I have a decent chance to coming out on top,'
If Goosen is to become a back-to-back winner, he will have to improve his play at the end of the round.
'I'm holing a lot of good par putts, so tomorrow I'm going to have to scramble better or play better, one of the two,' said Goosen. 'I've been up-and-down this year, but I just need to somehow find the fairways. That's the key.'
Scott Verplank posted a 1-under 69 and is alone in fourth place at 8-under-par 202. Davis Love III fired a 5-under 65 and has sole possession of fifth place at minus-6.
Padraig Harrington (68), Charles Howell III (70) and Ben Crane (72) are knotted in sixth place at 5-under-par 205. Vijay Singh (68), Stuart Appleby (71) and Tim Clark (72) share ninth at minus-4.
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