PGA TOUR GOLF: Rory McIlroy six off leader Henrik Stenson

Rory McIlroy hits out of a fairway bunker on the eighth hole
Rory McIlroy hits out of a fairway bunker on the eighth hole

Henrik Stenson maintained his customary position in the Tour Championship to edge closer to another eight-figure payday in a soggy Atlanta.

Stenson has played just six rounds at East Lake but has been top of the leaderboard after every single one after adding a 68 to his opening 63 to finish nine under par, three shots clear of world number three Jordan Spieth.

Two years ago Stenson led from start to finish to win the FedEx Cup title and 10million US dollars bonus and the 39-year-old remains on course to repeat the feat after four birdies and two bogeys on Friday.

“Any time you can maintain or extend your lead is always going to be a good day,” said Stenson, who held a two-shot lead over England’s Paul Casey overnight.

“I did not feel like I played my best golf today but made some nice putts for birdie and kept it together pretty nicely. So far, so good and hopefully I can play a little better tomorrow.”

Spieth’s flawless 66 was the lowest round of the day, although the Masters and US Open champion admitted he was not at his best.

“It’s really good considering the way I struck the ball, my short game was magic today,” Spieth told Sky Sports 4. “I was really able to salvage the round around the fifth and sixth to keep it going and keep some momentum on my side and eventually turn it under par.

“It was a struggle from tee to green but when we got around the greens we hit some fantastic up and downs.”

Spieth, who missed the cut in the first two play-off events before finishing 13th in the BMW Championship, added: “Today was a huge round for me. I stayed composed through the round and that was the key that maybe kept me in this tournament, not getting too down on myself.

“I have been getting frustrated easily and today would have been easy to do so considering my ball striking was not there, but we had some easy pars and eventually made a couple of putts.

“I’m very excited (about the weekend). It’s actually eerily similar to two years ago, chasing Henrik when he is on his game. Hopefully I can do a little better job tomorrow to stay with him because I don’t think he’s going to back down much.”

Stenson’s lead was cut to a single shot when Casey birdied the opening hole, but the Swede hit back with birdies on the second and fourth before Casey hooked his tee shot into a lake on the sixth to card a double bogey.

“It was good to claw my way back after the middle of the front nine,” Casey said after a 70 left him four shots behind Stenson. “I’m not a great rain player and I definitely lost control of a couple of longer clubs in the conditions. But I had a very good attitude and we are not out of it.”

Open champion Zach Johnson is five shots off the lead after a 70 marred by a double-bogey on the ninth, with Rory McIlroy and Australian Steven Bowditch another shot back on three under.

McIlroy recorded three birdies and four bogeys in his 71 to finish a shot ahead of Ryder Cup team-mate Justin Rose, who shot 68. World number one Jason Day is nine shots off the lead after a 71 left the Australian on level par.