It can’t be this easy. Henrik Stenson can’t continue to play for everything that’s at stake at this Tour Championship and make it look like he’s breezing along at an East Lake member-guest best-ball.
What was a one-shot lead at the start of the day Friday began multiplying like the national debt as Stenson was shooting 66 and improving his two-round total to 10 under par. We are in uncharted territory here. Stenson is four up on Adam Scott, and no one has had that large a second-round lead in any Tour Championship at East Lake.
There is just not supposed to be that kind of separation among equals.
Stenson had it so dialed in that he was even spotting the most exclusive field in golf one club. Everyone else played with the usual 14 on Friday. He went with 13 after discovering before the round that the face of his 4-wood had been cratered. The man who was seen Monday destroying a driver at the end of the BMW Championships assured everyone this club died of natural causes.
Perhaps the only way to tighten the leaderboard would be to take all the rest away, too, and make Stenson finish the weekend with nothing but one of Bobby Jones’ niblicks.
Let those at the bottom of the heap carp about being worn out by a long golf season. Tiger Woods, the titular No. 1 seed who imploded Friday with a triple and double-bogey over his last five holes, announced that his legs were shot. Being 4 over and in 26th place is exhausting.
It appears that those closer to the lead have a bit more in reserve to try to make an exciting weekend run. Scott’s regimen is working fine. “If I tell you I’m feeling tired this year, you can slap me across the face,” he said Thursday.
And then there’s Stenson, who may be a little worn by the playoff schedule, but is playing like an indefatigable machine. Someone test this guy for silicon chips.
It can’t be this easy: Fairway, green, putt, move on.
On Friday, Stenson hit 12 of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens in regulation. Those sometime dense PGA Tour statistics do have some merit — for over the course of this year Stenson led the Tour in greens in regulation percentage and was second in total driving.
“Look, Henrik is playing fantastic,” Scott said. “So he’s got this thing under control at the moment. But not for 36 (more) holes. I think there are too many good players here.”
What Stenson is doing is playing like he’s unaware of the moment. He actually has made it look easy. If every Swede had this kind of aversion to drama, Ingmar Bergman would have made only romantic comedies.
Maybe Stenson hasn’t done the conversion yet. That more than $11 million in purse and bonus money Stenson can claim with a victory here this weekend is, like, 66 million Swedish kroner.
If there is any doubt the pursuers can implant before play begins early, early Saturday — weather willing — they will be happy to oblige. The message from down the leaderboard: Don’t endorse that check just yet, pards.
“It remains in Henrik’s hands a little bit, but he’s got a lot on his plate this weekend,” said Justin Rose, six back of the lead. “He’s controlling his own destiny, and he’s done a great job of it. But I’m sure as we get towards the finish line $10 million begins to loom pretty large.
“I’m sure that’s the difference a lot of us have this weekend as we get to swing that much freer.”
Twenty-year-old Jordan Spieth cozied up in third place Friday after his 3-under round put him five back of Stenson.
He has all that untapped energy on his side. “If guys are really tired from playing more golf then normal then, yeah, that could be an advantage because I don’t feel really tired out there,” he said.
Nor does he seem to feel pressure. “I don’t expect to win the FedEx Cup at this point, but I can make a run at the Tour Championship.”
Four shots, that’s nothing. “Only a couple shots a day,” Scott reminded those who may need help with long division.
The view from the front is one that Stenson claims to enjoy. A three-time winner on the PGA Tour, his last at the Deutsche Bank Championship playoff event, he is somewhat familiar with the pressures involved with winning.
“I’ve always looked at it like if I’m ahead, the other guy’s got to play better to catch up,” he said. “So, I don’t mind (front-running) at all.
“They got more work to do than I have, in that sense. It might seem like a large lead, but four shots during two rounds is not that much. We know sometimes four shots isn’t enough on nine holes. So, I’m pretty cool with it all.”