Weibring, Lehman top tight field at Tradition
SUNRIVER, Ore. – The final two holes at Crosswater Club have historically played as the most difficult during the Jeld-Wen Tradition. Not on Thursday for D.A. Weibring.
Weibring rallied with birdies at Nos. 17 and 18 to shoot a 5-under 67 and share the first-round lead with Tom Lehman at the fourth of five majors on the Champions Tour.
Weibring made his lone bogey of the day at the par-4, 468-yard 14th to slip to 3 under. But Weibring wiped that out and more by making a 12-foot birdie putt at the 244-yard, par-3 17th, and then an 8-footer for birdie at the par-4, 456-yard 18th.
“You don’t normally plan on making birdies at 17 and 18,” said Weibring, whose last Champions Tour win came in the 2008 Seniors Players Championship.
Weibring, ranked 49th in Champions Tour earnings in 2010, said he’s “a day in, day out” proposition in the tournament, depending on whether a bone spur in his left shoulder causes pain. He has had some Tradition success at Crosswater Club, finishing third in 2007.
Like Weibring, Lehman mastered the final hole, which yielded just six birdies Thursday. He made a 30-footer at 18 to pull even with Weibring for the lead. It was typical of Lehman’s day, with good putting making up for poor iron play. Five of Lehman’s six birdie putts ranged from 15 to 30 feet.
“The irons some days feel like a spatula in your hand. I hit very few good shots,” Lehman said. “If I hadn’t had a good putting round, it would have a very mediocre day.”
Weibring and Lehman by no means separated themselves from others on the leaderboard. Nearly one-third of the 66-man field is within two strokes of the lead. A total of 36 players broke par at the 7,533-yard Crosswater Club.
Lehman said he expected that someone would fire a low score because Crosswater’s fairways and greens were soft due to rain from a thunderstorm earlier in the week.
“There are opportunities out there, and the guys out here are good and will take advantage,” Lehman said.
Five players shot 68, one stroke behind the co-leaders. Among that group is Corey Pavin, the U.S. Ryder Cup captain, who made an eagle at the par-4 10th by holing a 163-yard 8-iron.
Also at 68 is 2008 Tradition champion Fred Funk, Bob Gilder, Fulton Allem and Gil Morgan. The unlikeliest of that group is Allem, who is ranked 91st in Champions Tour earnings this season.
Allem, who is scheduled to undergo back surgery in December, said he’s still a capable player, depending on his health.
“If I wake up and I can touch my toes, I’ve got a chance,” said Allem, who reached 5 under before making a bogey at No. 17.
Funk, who has five Champions Tour wins in five seasons, but none in 2010, seems to come alive at Crosswater. In 13 Tradition rounds at Crosswater, Funk is 39 under par.
“You’ve got to be careful out here, and I’ve done a good job at that,” Funk said.
Bernhard Langer, the tour’s season earnings and Charles Schwab Cup leader, was among 13 players at 69. Aiming to become the second player in Champions Tour history to win three consecutive majors, he made three birdies on the back nine to overcome an even-par front side.
Langer comes into the Tradition having won the Senior British Open and U.S. Senior Open during the past month.
Others at 69 include Hale Irwin, Mark Calcavecchia, Loren Roberts and Bobby Clampett.
Heading a group of five players at 70 is Andy Bean and Bob Tway. Tom Watson and Nick Price were among 11 players to shoot 71.
Defending Tradition champion Mike Reid had an awful day, shooting a 7-over par 79. Only one player scored worse, Phil Blackmar with an 81.
Two prominent players missing from the field are Fred Couples and Paul Azinger. Couples, ranked second in the Schwab Cup standings, opted to play in this week’s PGA Tour event, the Wyndham Championship. Azinger was disqualified after failing to show for Tuesday’s pro-am.