Bruce Fleisher was as surprised as anyone to find himself atop the leaderboard.
The 63-year-old Fleisher shot a 6-under 65 on Friday to take a one-stroke lead over Michael Allen and Chien Soon Lu after the first round of the Champions’ Tour Encompass Insurance Pro-Am.
”My expectations were really not very high whatsoever,” Fleisher said. ”It is a bonus. It was wonderful day. Maybe it will continue. I’m not quite sure.”
Fleisher, making his third start of the year, had seven birdies and a bogey at TPC Tampa Bay. He won the event in 2000 and 2003.
Fleisher, playing a limited retirement schedule of 10 or 11 events, tied for 45th and 37th the previous two years.
”I keep telling friends and family that this is not for 63-year olds,” Fleisher said. ”You have to move on, maybe write another chapter in your life. I had a wonderful run. I don’t need to prove anything anymore to anybody, especially to myself.”
Fleisher was all smiles during his post-round media session, saying that he was hoping to be back, again.
”I kind of like it up here,” he said.
Allen overcame a double bogey and bogey. He has finished second or third three times in five events this season.
”I’m satisfied,” Allen said. ”It always takes a day or two to get to know the course. I could make some better decisions. I’m happy. I’m close. It’s going to be a fun weekend.”
Lu had consecutive birdies on 14 and 15, but three-putted three holes.
”Drive the ball well, putted so-so,” Lu said.
Bernhard Langer, Russ Cochran, Corey Pavin, Peter Senior and Brad Bryant were two strokes back at 67.
Gary Hallberg started his round with four consecutive birdies, but ended up at 69.
Langer, the 2010 winner, missed last year’s event because of a thumb injury.
Cochran had a cortisone shot for a sore right wrist before the tournament and rebounded after bogeys on his second and third holes.
”I wasn’t too sure about playing and all that stuff,” Cochran said. ”Today was kind of cool. It’s a tough golf course, and I was able to throw all expectations out and just get out there and play.”
Kirk Triplett finished at 68 in his first Champions Tour round.
Tom Watson, playing with right arm and hand discomfort, had a 77.
Nick Price dropped out because of an injured left elbow, which has been hurting for the past three to four weeks. He played seven holes before leaving the course.
Tommy Armour III also withdrew after one hole due to a shoulder injury.
Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino, a couple weeks removed from an unlikely trip to college basketball’s Final Four, was among the amateurs playing.
”I had a great time with it, I really did,” said Pitino of his sixth Final Four appearance. ”I said to myself, if I ever get a chance again, I’m going to really enjoy it. This time I’m going to stay focused, but enjoy it and have a good time so I remember one of them. The last two years have been as much fun as I’ve had in the business.”