Bart Bryant is starting to believe he can compete with the best. If his victory at the Memorial wasn't enough to convince him, the course-record 62 he shot Thursday at East Lake in Atlanta should do the trick.
A career-grinder and late bloomer, the 42-year-old Bryant made the most of his Tour Championship debut by missing only two fairways and two greens, and making one spectacular par save that gave him a two-shot lead over defending champion Retief Goosen.
Kenny Perry bogeyed the last two holes for a 65, while Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia were at 66.
Woods was at 5 under through eight holes and was poised to shoot 29 on the front until failing to convert an easy up-and-down for birdie from the bunker. He struggled the rest of the way, but had few complaints.
Bryant had nothing to complain about, either.
He must have known it was his day when he faced an awkward stance left of the 17th green -- set up by one of his few mediocre shots -- and was hopeful of getting the chip within 10 feet. Instead, Bryant's shot banged into the pin and rattled the cup before settling a tap-in distance away.
"I almost felt like apologizing after that one," he said.
Bryant wound up breaking by one shot the record set by Vijay Singh in the first round in 1998.
And it was further proof that Bryant, who has gone through three injuries and a half-dozen trips to Q-school, belongs with the other top 28 players on the money list at this Tour Championship.
"I don't think I'll ever believe it in my head," Bryant said. "People try to pound it in my head, 'You belong, you belong.' If I go out and shoot three more 62s, maybe I'll believe it."
No one gave him a free pass to East Lake.
Bryant won for the first time last year at the Texas Open, then validated it with a par from the hazard on the 18th hole at Muirfield Village to win the Memorial. He has continued to play well enough to get to No. 22 on the money list.
Farm Bureau Classic
Todd Fischer refused to leave his future on the PGA Tour to chance.
The third-year pro who ranks 117th on the money list scrapped plans for a week off to play in the Southern Farm Bureau Classic in Madison, Miss., and keep himself positioned to earn his tour card for next year.
The only PGA Tour event in Mississippi has a different feel this year, largely because the tournament was pushed back four weeks from the first weekend in October because of Hurricane Katrina.
That delay places the event opposite the Tour Championship and has some players paying extra attention to their standing on the money list.
The top 125 earn tour cards for 2006, those ranked 126-150 earn provisional status for next season and the top 40 can play in the Masters.
-- From wire reports