Henrik Stenson, who has not won a title this year, put himself in pole position for a $11.48 million jackpot by firing a seven-under 63 on Thursday for a two-shot lead after the first round of the Tour Championship.
Stenson, who claimed the FedExCup playoffs bonanza two years ago by winning this season-ending event, posted six birdies and an eagle-three at the ninth hole at East Lake Golf Club, where the four-event series culminates.
The 39-year-old Swede topped a leaderboard that featured other international players including Englishman Paul Casey, who was sole second after a 65, and Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy, who shared third with British Open champion Zach Johnson at 66.
World No 1 Jason Day of Australia, winner of four of his last six events including the PGA Championship and last week’s BMW Championship, started with three birdies in a row, but a triple-bogey at the fifth sent him on his way to 69.
Jordan Spieth, who dominated the first half of the year with wins at the Masters and US Open, registered a 68 to join five other players at two under par.
Stenson, who has three second-place finishes on the PGA Tour this year and another on the European Tour, pounded his tee shots, ripped approaches with laser-like accuracy and putted the lightning-fast greens with a deft touch.
An overcast day produced some late afternoon rain that seemed to cool off Stenson, who reached eight-under by the 12th hole but finished with five pars and his lone bogey at the 17th.
Yet Stenson occupied the driver’s seat at East Lake as the initial 30-man field for the elite tournament shrank to 28 after 2010 British Open winner Louis Oosthuizen of South Africawithdrew after 13 holes due to a hamstring injury.
Jim Furyk, the 2010 FedExCup winner, pulled out before the tournament because of a wrist injury.
Runner-up finishes at The Barclays and Deutsche Bank Championship FedExCup events had pushed Stenson into the top five on the points list, meaning a victory in Atlanta would clinch the overall grand prize for the Swede.