THE WOODLANDS, Texas (AP) — Tom Lehman used to hate the Tournament Course at The Woodlands Country Club. Now, he's wondering why he ever felt that way.
The 53-year-old Lehman had an eagle and five birdies on the first eight holes on the back nine Friday, then bogeyed the par-4 18th for a 7-under 65 and a one-shot lead after the first round of the Champions Tour's Insperity Championship.
Fred Funk and Houston native Tom Jenkins were tied for second, and past winners John Cook and Bernhard Langer topped a large group at 68.
Michael Allen, coming off consecutive victories at TPC Tampa Bay and the Legends of Golf better-ball event with David Frost, opened with a 69.
Lehman, the player of the year last year after winning three times, shot his ninth straight sub-par round at the Woodlands, a venue that used to conjure nothing but bad memories.
He played in the 1985 Houston Open, the first year it was contested here, and missed the cut. In December 1989, Lehman finished "nearly dead-last" here in PGA Tour qualifying school on a cold, rainy weekend.
"It was a horrendous experience," he said. "I played poorly and because it was such a big deal, I hated the golf course and I thought I'd never come back."
But Lehman has top-10 finishes in each of his three Champions Tour starts at the course since 2009, and he was reminded again Friday how well the course actually suits his game.
He hit approach shots close all day, and sank 6-foot birdie putts on Nos. 10 and 11 to get going. He holed a 12-footer on the 13th hole, reached the par-5 15th in two shots to set up the eagle and then tacked on two short birdie putts on Nos. 16 and 17.
"I think to myself, 'Why did I not come back here? I love this course,'" Lehman said. "It's just a testimony to how you can get something in your head, when things aren't going well. It's easy to say, 'I don't like the golf course.'"
Funk, meanwhile, is back at a venue he's always loved.
He played in that same 1989 qualifying tournament here, but played well and earned his card. Funk then earned his first tour victory here at 1992 Houston Open, also the year he shot a course-record 62. And he met his second wife, Sharon, at a post-tournament party that year.
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