ATLANTA – Bart Bryant had already messed up two easy bunker shots that cost him a par and a birdie, so even though his ball was sitting perfectly in the sand some 30 feet right of the 18th hole, he took nothing for granted.

“Luckily,” he said, “it came off as planned.”

Bryant holed out his bunker shot to finish with birdie Saturday and boost his lead in the Tour Championship to three shots over defending champion Retief Goosen.

He is starting to feel comfortable as the front-runner, although Bryant only had to glance at the scoreboard to realize that his work is not done. He will be paired with Goosen today for the third straight day, and was amazed that the two-time U.S. Open champion could shoot 69 from some of the places he was in.

Another shot back was Tiger Woods, who birdied three of the last five holes for a 67.

“I guess I’ve got the No. 1 ranked player in the world and the No. 4 ranked player in the world right on my tail,” Bryant said. “I know I’m going to have to go out and play good tomorrow. It’s not going to be given to me.”

The only gift he got in the third round was a late cushion.

He was clinging to a one-shot lead until Goosen had a mental lapse on a 45-foot birdie putt, leaving it some 10 feet short and missing that for a three-putt bogey. The birdie from the bunker gave Bryant an extra shot, and it enabled him to break the 54-hole record in the Tour Championship.

Bryant was at 14-under 196, one better than Tom Lehman through three rounds at Southern Hills in 1996.

Goosen headed straight for the practice range and hit balls until the sun dipped behind the pines, some of them sprayed to the right, others diving hard to the left. He finally turned to caddie Colin Byrne and said, “That’s enough.”

Goosen rallied from four shots behind last year to overtake Woods and Jay Haas. But his game is built around feel, and as he left East Lake in the twilight, he wasn’t feeling it.

“I’m going to have to get really lucky tomorrow,” Goosen said. “The flags are going to be in some tricky positions to get up-and-down from.”

He then noted he has hit only 15 of 42 fairways.

“The way I’m playing at the moment, I have no choice,” he said. “But you never know. It’s a funny game.”

It’s been a blast so far for Bryant, a 41-year-old in his Tour Championship debut.

He captured his first PGA Tour victory a year ago in the Texas Open, then added the prestigious Memorial in June with a par from the hazard on the 18th hole. He now takes a three-shot lead into the final round of the Tour Championship, with a chance to win $1.17 million.

Sorenstam one stroke back in Mizuno Classic

OTSU, Japan – Annika Sorenstam birdied the final two holes Saturday to stay in contention for her record fifth straight victory at the Mizuno Classic, shooting a 5-under 67 to trail leader Young Kim by a stroke.

“I have the opportunity to do something that no one else has done,” Sorenstam said. “So obviously, I’d like to make the most out of it. I’m going to chase her all day long.”

Sorenstam is tied with Laura Davies for the LPGA Tour record for consecutive victories in a tournament with four. Davies won the Standard Register Ping from 1994-97.

On the PGA Tour, only Gene Sarazen, Walter Hagen and Tiger Woods have won the same tournament four straight times.

Sorenstam had six birdies and a bogey in the second round on the Seta course for a 13-under 131 total heading into the final round.

Sorenstam, a nine-stroke winner each of the last two years, is 87 under in her last 14 rounds in the event. The Swedish star has eight LPGA Tour victories this year and won a European tour event in Sweden. She has 64 career LPGA Tour victories.

Kim, who opened with a 63 on Friday for a one-stroke lead over Sorenstam, had eight birdies and three bogeys in her 67. The 25-year-old South Korean player is winless in three full seasons on the LPGA Tour.

“It was a good experience playing with Annika,” Kim said. “I felt comfortable out there today. I’ll just try my best every shot and hope to do well.”

Six players top Southern Farm Bureau Classic leaderboard

MADISON, Miss. – Nobody’s in control after two rounds in the Southern Farm Bureau Classic.

John Cook found a groove and first-round leader Bob Tway abruptly lost his Friday, leaving six players tied for the top spot on the Annandale Golf Club course.

“It’s a slaughter waiting to happen,” Cook said.

Cook, an 11-time PGA Tour winner, closed with four straight birdies for a 7-under 65 to tie Tway (70), Kevin Na (68), Tag Ridings (66), Tom Pernice Jr. (68) and Jonathan Byrd (69) at 10-under 134.

It’s the tour’s most players tied for the lead after 36 holes in a PGA Tour event since eight shared the lead in the 2001 Greater Hartford Open.

“It’ll be hard to think Bob or anybody could shoot in the 60s twice and get beat,” Cook said.

The 48-year-old Cook finished his round by making a 35-foot birdie putt at No. 18, drawing cheers from the gallery.

He’s seeking his first victory since the 2001 Reno-Tahoe Open. His best finish this year came at the U.S. Open, where he tied for 15th.

Frank Lickliter (65), Loren Roberts (67), Joey Snyder III (68), Bo Van Pelt (69) and Brett Wetterich (67) were 9 under.

Tway began the round leading at 8 under. He was at 11 under by the 18th tee, but ran into trouble when he pulled his second shot into a water hazard. Earlier in the round, he hit his drive at No. 14 into the water and made a double bogey.

“Hitting two shots like that is ridiculous,” Tway said. “I better not do that (Saturday) or I won’t be doing too good.”

Pernice, who has two straight top-10 finishes, started the round two strokes back and shot a steady, bogey-free round that included four birdies.

Byrd kept up his strong play at Annandale. He has finished in the top 10 both times he played Mississippi’s only tour stop, in 2002 and 04.

“I feel good on this golf course,” Byrd said. “I have played well here in the past and I hope to continue to play well.”

Ridings, who also was bogey-free, is feeling much more secure about his future on the PGA Tour after following a third-place tie last week in the Chrysler Championship with two strong rounds at Annandale.

He ranks 101st on the money list with $796,883. Last year, he cut it close by finishing 125th. The top 125 keep their cards the following year.

“It is a stressful situation and really tough on your sleeping habits,” Ridings said. “Hopefully, I can get something good this week, and I can sleep really well all next year.”

Na, who missed three cuts before the Chrysler Championship, had seven birdies and three bogeys.

“After last week, I really felt like my swing was coming through,” Na said.

Among the notables missing the cut at 3 under were two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen (even), David Duval (2 over) and Ryan Palmer (3 over).

Janzen missed the cut for the fourth time in his last five tournaments. Duval, a 13-time winner and 2001 British Open champion, failed to advance at Annandale for the second straight year.

Last year, Palmer was 21 under, second to Fred Funk. Funk didn’t return to Mississippi to defend his title. He’s playing in the Tour Championship in Atlanta.

Five players ranked between 120-135 on the money list missed the cut: Kent Jones (121), Nick Watney (127), Michael Allen (128), Hunter Mahan (129) and J.P. Hayes (135).

AP-ES-11-05-05 0223EST


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