ATLANTA — Just getting to East Lake is the challenge for Henrik Stenson. Playing the golf course appears to be the easy part.

Two years after his wire-to-wire victory to capture the FedEx Cup, Stenson was just as dominant Thursday until he stalled at the end and had to settle for a 7-under 63 and a two-shot lead over Paul Casey in the Tour Championship.

Stenson ripped a 4-wood from 288 yards to 25 feet and made the eagle putt on the par-5 ninth to go out in 29. He added two more birdies to reach 8 under through 12 holes, then made pars the rest of the way except for his lone bogey on the 17th.

Even so, it was just the start he wanted on a course that he has figured out. Stenson opened with a 64 two years ago, stretched his lead to as many as nine shots in the third round and joined Tom Watson as the only wire-to-wire winners of the Tour Championship.

He missed the event last year when he failed to get into the top 30 who qualify for the FedEx Cup finale, and knew he only needed to get back to have a chance.

“I wanted to get out of the blocks quickly, and I surely did,” Stenson said.

Jason Day, in his first tournament as the No. 1 player in the world, stayed with Stenson until one shot. Day birdied his opening three holes, but his drive on the par-4 fifth hole sailed through the trees on the right, over the fence and out-of-bounds. He made triple bogey and never really got back on track. He shot a 69 and was six behind.

“I wish I could say that I was a machine and I can hit it straight down the gut every single time, 315 yards,” Day said. “But unfortunately, as humans we’re going to make errors. … To make triple was pretty disappointing, but it’s early on in the tournament, so I can’t dwell on that.”

Rory McIlroy started slowly, but finished the front nine with three straight birdies and had a 66 to join British Open champion Zach Johnson in a tie for third place.

Jordan Spieth took the stress out of his game and rarely was out of position. He didn’t hit it close enough for many birdie chances, but he made three of them and shot a 68.

For the longest time, Stenson looked uncatchable.

The trouble at East Lake is the Bermuda rough, which is why the powerful Swede leans so heavily on his 3-wood off the tee. He kept it in play, hit iron shots as crisp as ever and made plenty of putts. It was an ideal combination for scoring, until the final hour.

“I can’t really play the front nine any better – very similar to what I did in 2013 when I started with a good score and shot 5 under on the front,” Stenson said. “So hopefully, the rest of the week can be as successful as it was then.”

EUROPEAN OPEN: Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger and France’s Benjamin Hebert shared the lead at 7-under after the first round of the European Open in Bad Griesbach, Germany.

Wiesberger had seven birdies in a bogey-free round. Hebert had eight birdies and a bogey.

Champions Tour player Bernhard Langer, who co-designed the Franz Beckenbauer course, opened with a 66.