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East Lake leader Stenson takes nothing for granted

Henrik Stenson of Sweden lines up his putt on the first hole during the second round of the Tour Championship golf tournament at East Lake G
Henrik Stenson of Sweden lines up his putt on the first hole during the second round of the Tour Championship golf tournament at East Lake G

By Mark Lamport-Stokes

ATLANTA (Reuters) - Henrik Stenson has both the Tour Championship and FedExCup firmly in his grasp heading into the last two rounds but, though he enjoys being a front-runner, is well aware a lot can happen over the final 36 holes.

After two days of superlative ball-striking in dazzling sunshine at East Lake Golf Club in the PGA Tour's season-ending event, the Swede holds a four-stroke lead after firing a four-under-par 66 in Friday's second round.

"I've won a lot of tournaments from a good position like this, and I hope I can do it again," Stenson, 37, told reporters after posting a 10-under total of 130 to separate himself from the other 29 players in the elite field.

"Quite a few of my wins (have come) from being in the front and I've always looked at it like, if I'm ahead, the other guy's got to play better to catch up. So I don't mind it 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. I'm just going to go out and try to do the best I can for the next two days."

Stenson, one of five players at the start of the week who would automatically guarantee FedExCup honors and the bonus of $10 million by winning the Tour Championship, said the massive financial lure was no distraction for him.

"For me, it's more important to leave here with two trophies," said the Swede, who has recorded seven top-10s in 17 starts on the 2013 PGA Tour, including his third win on the U.S. circuit at the Deutsche Bank Championship earlier this month.

"At the end of the day, it's just money, isn't it? I care more about the two trophies than I do the $11 million (for winning the Tour Championship and FedExCup), that's for sure."

FINANCIAL BONANZA

U.S. Open champion Justin Rose of England, joint fourth at four under after carding a second successive 68 at East Lake, felt Stenson might become more aware of the staggering financial bonanza at stake as the tournament unfolded.

"That remains in Henrik's hands a little bit, but he's got a lot on his plate this weekend," said Rose, who birdied three of the last five holes to climb into contention. "He's controlling his own destiny, and he's done a great job of it.

"But as we get towards the finish line, I'm sure $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."

Rose liked his own title prospects at East Lake, despite trailing Stenson by six shots going into Saturday's third round.

"I've got a low one in me," the Englishman said. "I've hit a lot of good putts this week that haven't yet fallen. I feel very comfortable with my putting. I'm not holing out well.

"If I can just click with my long game, I feel like I can hold it for the weekend and get it to, who knows, 12 (under) plus for the tournament."

Masters champion Adam Scott, alone in second place at six under after returning a 69 on Friday, also liked his own position heading into the weekend.

"Look, Henrik is playing fantastic, so he's got this thing under control at the moment," the Australian said. "But I think there are too many good players here.

"It's not just myself or someone at five under. Someone back at three and two can still have a run at this thing. I think I'm confident enough in my own ball-striking to not be intimidated by Henrik's good ball-striking."

(Editing by Frank Pingue)

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