Henrik Stenson, one of five men who could take the FedEx Cup title with a victory this weekend, fired a 7-under 63 to lead the TOUR Championship by two strokes in Atlanta.
Stenson, who finished second at both the Barclays and the Deutsche Bank Championship earlier this month, was 6-under through nine holes thanks to four birdies and an eagle, and was down to 8-under through 12 holes before shooting five pars and a bogey the rest of the way.
He has a 2-stroke lead over England’s Paul Casey, and three strokes over No. 2 Rory McIlroy, who appears to be heating up at just the right time. Casey had just one blemish, a bogey on No. 13 surrounded by six birdies.
McIlory bogeyed No. 2, then birdied 7, 8, and 9 to get back in the swing of things. Open Championship winner Zach Johnson is also 4-under, with four birdies and no bogeys.
Only 16 players were at least one stroke under par out of the 30-man field. Current No. 3 Jordan Spieth is one of six players tied for fifth at 2-under.
Current No. 1 and overall points leader Jason Day is tied for 11th at 1-under with the likes of Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler.
Day came out like he was ready to win the title on Thursday, birdying his first three holes, only to give it all back with a triple-bogey 7 on No. 5. He was 1-under the rest of the way.
Bubba Watson and Justin Rose are tied for 17th at even par.