FRENCH LICK, Ind. – Scores were much higher than usual over the first two rounds of the 76th Senior PGA Championship at the Pete Dye Course, but not all the Champions Tour players were suffering.
Tom Lehman, who will defend his title in July’s Encompass Championship at North Shore in Glenview, claimed the 36-hole lead after posting a 5-under-par 67 on Friday and the two Chicago area players on the Champions circuit – Hinsdale’s Jeff Sluman and Lake Forest’s Chip Beck – made the cut in the second major championship of the year in the 50-and-over circuit.
Most of the other 153 starters, however, were confounded by the six-year old Dye design that is hosting the event for the first time. Lehman, though, hit the halfway point in the tournament a 4-under 140. Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie, Lehman’s playing partner n the first two rounds and the tourney’s defending champion, is one stroke back
“It’s an incredibly beautiful place,’’ said Lehman, “and an amazing location to have this tournament. What Pete Dye does, more than anything, is challenge you mentally. He forces you to be patient.’’
Beck learned that lesson. He soared to 9-over-par for the tournament after his first nine on Saturday but played his last nine in 4-under-par 32 that included an eagle on the last hole. That put him at 5-over 149 for the first two rounds, which was well inside the cut line. Sluman, who matched Beck’s 73 on Friday, is two strokes better entering Saturday’s third round.
Lehman made five of his six birdies on the back nine to offset his lone bogey at No. 14. He posted a 32 on the back side.