ATLANTA (AP) – Bart Bryant thought for the briefest moment Friday that he was capable of another 62. By the end of the second round at the Tour Championship, he settled for a 68 and was thankful to be tied for the lead with defending champion Retief Goosen.

Goosen sprayed his tee shots all over the course and still managed to continue his mastery at East Lake, hitting only four fairways but posting a 4-under 66 to erase a five-shot deficit.

Tiger Woods only hit three fairways – one shot wound up in a tent full of ice for the concession stand – but scratched out a 67 and was three shots back along with Ben Crane (65) and Scott Verplank (66).

Thanks to Bryant, the season-ending event for the top 30 on the money list is suddenly wide open.

“I started thinking about a 62 again,” said Bryant, who set the course record in the first round. “I was able to right the ship at the end.”

Bryant, playing in his first Tour Championship, knocked in a 6-foot birdie putt on the seventh hole to go 11 under for the tournament and five shots clear of anyone else. Even Goosen, who is trying to become the first back-to- back winner of the event in its 19-year history, started to wonder if anyone could catch him.

“Then he got caught up in bunkers,” Goosen said.

Bryant made his first bogey of the tournament by going from bunker-to-bunker on No. 8, and a layup into the bunker on the par-5 ninth cost him a chance at birdie. When he drove into a bad lie in the bunker on the 13th, his lead was gone and several other players – Woods included – were closing fast.

“I just said, I’m tied for the lead at a great tournament,”‘ Bryant said. “All that matters is what I do from this point forward.”

He turned it around with a 30-foot eagle putt on the 15th, and Goosen caught him with a 6-foot birdie on the 16th.

They were at 10-under 130, by three shots the lowest 36-hole score at East Lake.

Woods might be able to join them if he can ever figure out the two par 5s at East Lake. He has played them in even par through two rounds, by either not getting up-and-down or missing the fairways. Both rounds, he has started strong and had to play hard to keep from losing shots.

Tim Clark of South Africa shot 67 and was at 6-under 134, while Charles Howell III (68) and Stuart Appleby (65) were another shot behind.

Woods was lucky to be only three behind.

From behind a tree on the 17th – right after swing coach Hank Haney gave a TV tip for how to hit a low punch around the trees – Woods went through the green and chipped poorly to 20 feet. He made the par putt, then hit his tee shot on the par-3 18th to about 5 feet for birdie.

“That was huge,” Woods said. “Goosen and Bart are playing great, and if I make bogey there and they make one more birdie coming in, all of a sudden the gap becomes five.”

The gap was at five at one point for Bryant, and all that mattered is how he recovered.

He hit a 3-iron into about 30 feet on the par-5 15th, then turned and raised his arms when it dropped in the center of the cup. That restored his lead, not to mention his confidence.

“To have it to 3 under (for the round) and for that to put me at 2 under, it was like, OK, I didn’t lose too much,”‘ Bryant said. “The eagle righted my wrongs. I’m happy to be 10 under. I’m happy to be tied for the lead. Where I’m at now is not a bad place to be.”

Goosen could not agree more.

This was the eighth time in 10 rounds at East Lake that he shot in the 60s, and he quickly fell behind with a bogey from the bunker on the opening hole. But that was the only shot he dropped, and Goosen kept plugging away until Byrant came back to him.

“My putting is good at the moment,” Goosen said. “I’m making a lot of good saves out of the rough.”

He hasn’t had a choice.

Goosen didn’t find the short grass until the eighth hole, where he made birdie to start his climb back to the lead.

AP-ES-11-04-05 1753EST

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