ATLANTA — Two years after Henrik Stenson sailed to victory at the Tour Championship, he had another comfortable lead after 36 holes at East Lake … and Jordan Spieth was chasing him again.
Back then, Spieth was a 20-year-old rookie. Now he's the reigning Masters and U.S. Open champion, and he found a spark in a steady drizzle Friday.
Stenson overcame a few mistakes off the tee and was solid on the back nine for 2-under 68, stretching his lead to three shots over Spieth at 9-under 131 going into the weekend and moving closer to his first win of the year — and a $10 million bonus for claiming the FedEx Cup.
"I didn't feel like it was my best day, but I managed to keep it together, and 2 under around here is never bad," Stenson said.
He doesn't know anything different. He shot his sixth straight round under par at East Lake, a course where the Swede has led after every round he has played. Stenson led wire to wire in the Tour Championship in 2013.
Spieth made only one bogey over the first two rounds, and a pair of par saves on consecutive holes on the front nine felt just as valuable as his four birdies in a round of 66. The average score was 71.6 on a wet day that yielded only four rounds under par.
"It was huge," Spieth said about the par saves. "I thought I may have to re-tee, and I was just kind of all over the place at that time."
He closed with a 20-foot birdie putt on the par-3 18th to get into the final group today.
In the last of the PGA Tour's four playoff events, Stenson and Spieth have to win to claim the FedEx Cup and a $10 million bonus.
Paul Casey made bogey from the bunker on the 18th for 70 and was four shots behind. British Open champion Zach Johnson birdied three of his last four holes to overcome a double bogey on the par-5 ninth and finish with 70 for a 4-under total.
Rory McIlroy was 3 under after shooting 71.
Jason Day, in his first event as No. 1 in the world, finally looked human. He said he felt flat, wasn't sharp off the tee or into the greens, and shot 71. It was just his third round over par in his past 10 tournaments, and it left him nine shots behind.
Stenson was four shots clear of Adam Scott after 36 holes when he won the Tour Championship two years ago, with Spieth another shot behind. Spieth made a late run on Sunday and tied for second, capping off a remarkable rookie season.
He is looked at differently now.
"He's one of the best players in the world, as we know, and had a fantastic year behind him," Stenson said. "So he's going to be a very tough contender throughout these last two days. He was good already (in 2013), but he's certainly not any less good now. We know that much.
"Once again, I've got to focus on my game and bring my game and keep my head down and foot down and press on if I want to leave the guys behind me."
The biggest challenge figures to be East Lake, especially with more wet conditions in the forecast. The Bermuda rough can be tricky when it's dry because it can be difficult to judge how far the ball flies out of it. Wet rough is difficult in a different manner. It makes the course longer off the tee and longer coming out of the thick grass.
Champions: Jesper Parnevik birdied three of his last four holes at Poppy Hills for a share of the lead with Tom Byrum in the First Tee Open at Pebble Beach, Calif. Parnevik shot 5-under 66. Byrum, playing Pebble Beach, shot 5-under 67. Mark McNulty was third at 4 under after 68 at Pebble Beach. Colin Montgomerie, Sandy Lyle and Woody Austin shot 68 at Poppy Hills to reach 3 under.