Stenson builds 2-shot lead in the blink of an eye
ATLANTA (AP) The word ''blink'' translates easily from English to Swedish.
''Blinka,'' Henrik Stenson said. ''Just add an `a' to the end. Very simple.''
It's become his buzz work at the Tour Championship, starting with a question earlier in the week when he was asked whether someone posting a low score made him blink.
''I wouldn't mind blinking once or twice this week and shooting a couple of 64s,'' Stenson said.
So when he walked into the press room after a late bogey made him settle for a 7-under 63 on Thursday, the Swede was blinking his eyes in rapid succession.
''That was the main purpose,'' Stenson said. ''To make someone blink.''
He made heads turn if nothing else. Two years after his wire-to-wire win at East Lake to capture the FedEx Cup, Stenson opened with a 29 on the front nine and reached 8 under through 12 holes before his round stalled. Even so, he had a two-shot lead over Paul Casey and was one round closer to the biggest payday in golf.
Here's a look ahead to Friday's second round:
STENSON'S START: The hardest part for Stenson might be getting to East Lake. Playing the golf course appears to be much easier.
After winning the FedEx Cup in 2013, Stenson struggled in the early part of the season and wound up at No. 52 in the FedEx Cup, joining a long list of players to claimed the $10 million prize one year and failed to get back to the Tour Championship the next year.
Stenson was No. 41 this year until he was runner-up in the opening two playoff events and camped himself at No. 4.
He loves this course and knows how to play it. Because of the Bermuda rough, Stenson relies primarily on his 3-wood. He never hit driver in the opening round, kept the ball in play and made some putts. It's a tough combination to beat.
Two years ago, Stenson had a four-shot lead after 36 holes and stretched his lead to nine shots at one point in the third round.
THE CHALLENGERS: Casey withdrew from the Deutsche Bank Championship three weeks ago with back spasms, and he's doing much better. He got treatment, worked on his posture and swung freely on his way to a 65.
Another shot back was British Open champion Zach Johnson and a forgotten figure - that would be Rory McIlroy, the kid from Northern Ireland who has been No. 1 longer than anyone this year. McIlroy has been overlooked in the tussle between Jason Day and Jordan Spieth, though the four-time major champion is still, um, pretty good.
JORDAN AND JASON: Spieth must be tired of looking at Day, the new world No. 1. Thursday was the eighth time in his last 10 rounds that Spieth has played with Day, dating to the final round at Whistling Straits when Day outlasted him to win the PGA Championship.
Day won twice in the PGA Tour's postseason, most recently at the BMW Championship when Spieth watched him open with a 61-63.
On the first hole, Day had a 15-foot downhill birdie putt that he poured in the middle. Spieth had a birdie chance from 12 feet that he missed. On the next hole, Day hit his tee shot to just over 5 feet. Spieth answered with a beauty of his own to 6 feet to match birdies.
Spieth ended up with a 68, while Day had a 69. Day birdied the first three holes, only to give them all back on No. 5 with a tee shot out-of-bounds that led to triple bogey.
BRINGING UP THE REAR: Kevin Kisner and Robert Streb are among those who made it to East Lake for the first time.
Kisner opened with a 76. Streb had a 75.
It's not the end of the world. By getting to the Tour Championship, they can count on playing all four majors next year, which is especially sweet for Kisner, who grew up about 20 miles away in Aiken, South Carolina.
DO THE MATH: The top five in the FedEx Cup only have to win the Tour Championship to take home the $10 million ($9 million in cash, $1 million deferred). Stenson is at No. 4, so the math is quite simple.
Day (No. 1) was in a tie for 11th. Spieth (2) was tied for fifth. Rickie Fowler (3) made the lone birdie on the par-3 18th and was tied for 11th. And the No. 5 seed is Bubba Watson, who has never seriously contended at East Lake. He shot 70 and was tied for 17th in the 28-man field, seven shots behind.