Baddeley and Mahan share lead at Tour Championship
The battle for the Tour Championship and FedExCup honors remained intriguingly wide open after Aaron Baddeley and Hunter Mahan charged into a tie for the lead in Saturday's third round at East Lake Golf Club.
Australian Baddeley fired a best of the day, six-under-par 64 to enhance his claims for a Presidents Cup wildcard pick next week while American Mahan carded a 66, the pair finishing level at nine-under 201.
Australian Jason Day, bidding for his first PGA Tour victory this year, birdied two of the last five holes for a 69 to share third place at seven under with South Korea's K.J. Choi (70).
"I felt like my game was in good order, so I was excited to get out there and shoot a good score," Baddeley, who holed out from the fairway to eagle the par-four fourth, told reporters after starting the third round five strokes off the pace.
"Overall, it was a very good day. It was nice to hole some putts."
Mahan joined Baddeley at the top of the leaderboard after rolling in a 22-foot birdie putt at the tricky par-three last, pumping his right fist in celebration.
"I'm excited to be in the hunt," Mahan said after mixing five birdies and an eagle with three bogeys on a glorious sun-splashed afternoon. "To birdie 18 was very, very nice.
"I've been playing pretty well all week and I feel like I've got a good feel for these greens, which is obviously very important.
"Every day, I feel like I'm hitting it a little bit better. Everything feels good. I just have to do it for one more day."
Twice during Saturday's third round, four players were tied for the lead before Baddeley and Mahan broke free from the log-jam over the closing stretch.
Australian world number 10 Adam Scott, who had been one stroke ahead of the chasing pack overnight, faded after the turn on the way to a 74 and a tie for ninth at four under.
Every player in the elite field of 30 began the week with a mathematical chance of winning the FedExCup, along with its $10 million bonus, with victory on Sunday.
Of those, British world number one Luke Donald was best placed after the third round.
The ultra-consistent Englishman, fourth in the FedExCup standings coming into this week, returned a 70 on Saturday to share fifth place at six under with American Bill Haas (69).
"My focus for this week is to win this tournament, and everything else kind of falls into place if I can do that," said Donald, who is also a strong contender for PGA Tour Player of the Year.
"Only being three back, I've still got a great chance. If I don't get off to a good start tomorrow, then I guess I'll be looking at potentially where I am in the FedExCup. But until that time happens, I'll be pressing on to try and win."
For Baddeley, FedExCup glory remains a distant prospect as he has to win the Tour Championship and hope that players ranked higher in the points standings finish poorly.
The Australian was 27th at the start of the week while any of the top five -- Webb Simpson, Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose, Donald and Matt Kuchar -- would automatically secure the trophy with victory on Sunday.
"I'm just going to try and win the golf tournament tomorrow," said Baddeley. "So much has got to go right for me to win the FedExCup.
"So for me, I just want to try and win the Tour Championship, which is a great event, a very prestigious event, and then try and impress Greg (Norman) in the process."
Baddeley is among a handful of contenders for the final two spots on Norman's International 12-man team for the ninth Presidents Cup against the United States from November 17-20.
He is vying with compatriots Robert Allenby and John Senden, Fiji's Vijay Singh and South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Rory Sabbatini for Norman's two wildcard picks, to be announced on Tuesday.
"Talking to Greg on Monday, I knew I had to play well this week to impress him," Baddeley said. "So I did a lot of work Tuesday and Wednesday, especially on my putting, and I'm very pleased so far this week."