When it comes to his putting game, Tom Lehman admits he's been in a weird place of late.
And not a good weird.
"I've been living in this zone of second-guessing my reads, second-guessing my stroke because I misread so many putts, and then becoming less committed to the putt itself and starting to put bad strokes on them," Lehman said of his woes on the greens. "It's kind of a cycle, so it's been frustrating the last couple of years in that way."
Well, after a bogey-free opening round 65 at the Encompass Championship at North Shore Country Club -- a round in which he hit 15 greens in regulation and had 26 total putts -- Lehman found himself in a weird place again, but this time it was a good weird.
"It's been a while since I've been in the interview room; I'm not sure I'd even remember how to get here," the former British Open champion said. "This year has been erratic ... so it's nice to be here today."
"My putting has been erratic. I've been messing with cross-handed (grips), messing with my hands getting higher, my hands lower ... today I just went back to (doing what) I've been working on the last four or five years."
Lehman, who started his round on the 10th tee, made the turn at 3 under and then kicked it in big time with 4 straight birdies beginning on the fourth hole when he sank a 15-foot putt. His birdie spree also included a 12-footer on No. 5 and wrapped up with a 15-footer on the seventh.
"All those mid-range putts are the ones I've really been struggling with -- 15 footers -- and today I was seeing the line," he said. "I was getting them on line and the speed was just right."
Lehman holds a 1-shot lead over Doug Garwood and Roger Chapman, the Senior PGA and U.S. Senior champion a few years back.
"I'm delighted," Chapman said of his 66. "I didn't play well here last year. I wasn't driving the ball particularly well and got that sorted out towards the end of last year with my coach Paul Anderson. This year has been a lot more steady."
Garwood, who lost in a playoff to Tom Pernice in Iowa at the beginning of the month, is tied with Chapman, but was hoping for an even better finish.
"Yeah, I was disappointed because I was 6 under going into the par-5 16th, and I laid up in the rough and ended up making bogey," said the 51-year-old Californian, whose last victory was the 2001 Long Beach Open.
"I was thinking I could grab the lead if I birdied there and at 18 ... but at least I'm thinking in the right direction."
Lehman, who is two shots up on a group of seven players, including Mark O'Meara, Kirk Triplett and Hinsdale's very own Jeff Sluman, knows his performance the rest of the weekend will depend on one thing -- his putter.
"There's key putts in every round and when you miss that key putt or a couple of those key putts, it really makes it hard to keep the momentum going," he said. "I played with Olin Browne today and he had that kind of day.
"He played really well but missed two or three putts and lost two or three shots and ended up shooting 1 under when he actually played much better.
"That's kind of what happens ... you need to make those key putts."