Adam Scott made eight birdies and three bogeys.
Allan Henry/US PRESSWIRE
Saturday, September 24, 2011

ATLANTA (AP) — Adam Scott placed a dozen tees in a circle, 4 feet from the cup, trying to make them all as caddie Steve Williams followed behind him and replaced the golf balls after each putt. The circle was expanded to 6 feet, then 10 feet.

"I'm just trying to make as many as I can," Scott said on the eve of the Tour Championship.

Tee to green, he feels as though his game has rarely been better. The Australian switched to the long putter at the Match Play Championship at the end of February, and he has seen enough improvement to win a World Golf Championship at Firestone. There are still a few bad days - and bad weeks, as he showed last week at Cog Hill.

The practice sure seemed to pay off Friday at East Lake. Right when it looked as though he were losing ground, Scott ran off five birdies in a six-hole stretch, most of them from that distance he had been practicing, one of them a 35-footer on the eighth.

It led to a 5-under 65 and gave him a one-shot lead over K.J. Choi going into a week in which 14 players were separated by five shots. It also gave him as much confidence about the last two rounds as his win at East Lake five years ago.

"Just lost a little confidence last week reading the greens," Scott said. "I never got anything started on line that looked like going in, and even a couple of putts yesterday and today were good putts that weren't quite on line. But today was a lot better. That's a positive thing going into the week, because it was a much freer approach to putting."

Scott was at 8-under 132, alone atop a crowded leaderboard.

Jason Day, who played on a steamy Friday afternoon with Scott, had a 67 and was two shots behind, along with Luke Donald, the world's No. 1 player who had a 68 and still might be the guy to beat for the $10 million FedEx Cup.

Bubba Watson, who still isn't sure East Lake is a good fit for his game, managed the low score of the round with a 64. That put him at 5-under 135 along with Hunter Mahan and a pair of U.S. hopefuls for the Presidents Cup, Bill Haas and PGA champion Keegan Bradley.

Another American who is desperate to go to Royal Melbourne - Brandt Snedeker - was at 3-under 137, along with Matt Kuchar.

Kuchar and Donald are in the top five of the FedEx Cup, meaning they only have to win the Tour Championship to collect the biggest payoff in golf.

Scott is at No. 19. If the leaderboard looks Sunday exactly how it did on Friday, Scott would capture the FedEx Cup because the top two players on the points list - Webb Simpson and Dustin Johnson - were out of the top 18 and the others weren't high enough.

It's a lot of math - not to mention golf - between now and then, although Scott still has a chance.

"I've got to win, and I imagine Webb must have to finish pretty low to give me a chance," Scott said of the FedEx Cup. "That's all I know. I just figured if I win this week, I'll be happy no matter what. I'll finish what I think has been a really good season."

Bradley, who came into the day with a two-shot lead, bogeyed two of his first five holes and never quite recovered in his round of 71. Scott, who won the Tour Championship at East Lake in 2006 the year before the FedEx Cup was created, also had a scrappy start with three bogeys on the opening six holes.

"I was pretty annoyed at myself, but I'm playing too good to let myself flip away at the moment," he said.

Scott proved that by running off four straight birdies, then adding another on No. 12 with a deft shot from a fairway bunker to about 8 feet that put him ahead of Day, who only six holes earlier had been five shots clear of Scott.

The two Australians were paired together in the final round of the Masters and tied for second, and they went at it again in the second round at East Lake.

"I'm in front and then he comes back, and then he's in front and I come back," Day said. "It does fire you up because everyone wants to win it, and you just want to go out there and play the best you can."

Quietly lurking, as usual, is Donald.

With two days remaining, there is no clear favorite for the FedEx Cup - or for the Tour Championship.

"You get a bunch of good players together, and these things are going to unfold like this," Scott said. "I think everyone is just enjoying being here and trying to do the best they can, because there's a lot at stake, obviously."

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