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Great Scott: Eagle lifts Australian star into Tour lead

ATLANTA -- The best shot Adam Scott hit all day wound up in the face of a bunker. His worst shot stopped 2 feet away for an eagle.

Even more surprising was where it led him Saturday in the Tour Championship.

A thinly struck 3-iron rolled all the way up the slope on the par-5 15th, climbed onto the green and stopped within tap-in range for an eagle that carried him to a 3-under 67 at East Lake. And when Joe Durant bogeyed two of the last three holes, Scott walked off the final green with a three-shot lead over Durant and Vijay Singh.

"Those last five holes were really a big swing in the tournament for me," said Scott, who was at 7-under 203.

But even with a comfortable margin, one look at the leaderboard reminded him that his work is far from finished.

He will play in the final group with Singh, who shot 30 on the back nine on his way to a 65 and was at 206. Singh won at East Lake in 2002, which triggered his rise to No. 1 in the world.

Former U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk, the No. 2 player in the world and top-ranked player at East Lake, birdied three straight holes down the stretch for a 67 and was at 3-under 207. Also four shots behind was two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen, who made clutch pars saves on the back nine for a 68.

And don't count out Ernie Els (66) or Luke Donald (69) at 209.


For all the talk about Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson sitting
this one out, there was plenty of star power at East Lake. Five of
the top 10 players in the world ranking are among the top eight on
the leaderboard.

"Who's not here?" Singh said with a laugh. "I'm here, right?
Ernie is here. Furyk is here. The golf tournament is still here."

And there's still a $1.17 million payoff to the winner, and a
crystal trophy that Scott is desperate to get. He has played some
of his most consistent golf this year and this is his last chance
to win on the PGA Tour.

The turnaround started on the 14th hole, when Scott hit wedge to
6 feet for birdie. The surprise came on the next hole.

He was tied for the lead with Durant, in the first cut of rough
on the left side of the fairway when he caught his 3-iron thin and
slumped his shoulders as it ran up the steep slope. But it kept
rolling, and rolling, until it climbed onto the green.

Suddenly, Scott was all smiles as he walked up the fairway,
twirling his 3-iron like a drum major.

"I thought it would be short," Scott said. "But it was going
where I was aiming. I hit a lot of other great shots that didn't
turn out as well. It's unexplainable."

The eagle gave the Australian star the lead, and it got even
bigger when Durant bogeyed the next two holes.

"It's a great position to be in," Scott said. "You can see
all the great players making a move, creeping up the leaderboard.
I've got to keep moving. I really need to knuckle down tomorrow."

As pleased as he was with his eagle, Scott was equally impressed
closing with three straight pars. And it didn't hurt when Durant
missed the 16th green to the left and chipped short, taking bogey,
then three-putted the 17th.

"It was probably the best day for scoring as far as wind and
temperature," Durant said. "I felt I should have scored better
than I did."

The temperatures remained chilly, but enough not to disturb an
ice sculpture of the Tudor-styled clubhouse at East Lake. But
scoring was at a premium, which was evident early when former
British Open champion Ben Curtis shot 66, and other sub-par scores
followed.

Els did what he could to get back in the hunt.

Three birdies on the front nine got him back to even par for the
tournament, and a 30-foot birdie putt on the 10th hole got his name
on the leaderboard. Els was within two shots of the lead with an
approach that rolled down to 4 feet at No. 12, but that was the
peak of the day. With everyone else making birdies, he knew
mistakes had to be kept at a minimum.

And when his approach to the 13th tracked the flag and came up
short into a steep collar of rough, Els flipped the iron in
disgust. He dropped another shot on the 16th when he missed the
green to the left.

"I had a few hiccups, but I'll take a 66," Els said. "Anybody
under par has an outside chance. You still need a low one
tomorrow."

Singh played in the group behind Els and charged into contention
with a round that could have been even better.

He birdied five of his first six holes on the back nine, no putt
longer than 15 feet, and missed birdie chances inside 12 feet on
the last two holes. Still, his 65 turned him into a contender in
the final tournament of the year.

"If I can make some putts tomorrow you never know," Singh
said.

One shot behind was Furyk, whose birdie run ended with a slick
25-footer on the 17th that gave him reason to believe he could
capture his third title of the year. If nothing else, he all but
secured the Vardon Trophy for lowest scoring average.

Furyk would win because Woods, who played only 15 times this
year on the PGA Tour, does not have enough rounds to qualify for
the award.

"Obviously, Tiger and Phil are big draws," Furyk said. "But
there's a lot of good players here. And a bunch of them are right
at the top of the leaderboard. It should be a shootout tomorrow."