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Senior Players notebook: No magic for Lehman this time

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By Ralph N. Paulk and Andrew Erickson
Thursday, June 26, 2014, 7:57 p.m.
 

Tom Lehman didn't putt well Thursday, but a 3-under-par 67 keeps him in contention in the Champions Tour's third major — the Senior Players Championship at Fox Chapel Golf Club.

Lehman, who won last weekend's Encompass Championship with a long birdie putt on the 72nd hole, faltered on putting surfaces that were largely vulnerable after Wednesday's torrential rains left the greens soft and receptive.

“The course is playing easy because it's soft,” said Lehman, who will not play the British Open for the first time since 1995. “The only thing you have to worry about is controlling the spin because it's easy to spin the ball way back.”

Lehman finished an uneventful round by missing a 4-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18th hole.

“I just misread the putt. I thought I hit it where I wanted but I made a mistake and left it above the hole,” Lehman said. “It's a lot tougher to make the downhill putts here.”

Mediate strong showing

After finishing his first Senior Players tied for 22nd a year ago, Greensburg native Rocco Mediate finds himself within range of the leaders after a 3-under 67.

Mediate, who donned a Pirates hat and received plenty of spectator attention throughout the day, improved to 4-under with birdies on Nos. 10 and 11. He bogeyed the par-5 16th and curled a birdie putt just around the hole on No. 18, preventing a late climb up the leaderboard.

“Nothing,” Mediate said of needed tweaks prior to round two. “Just driving all the fairways and do the same thing.”

Friendly skies at Fox Chapel

Despite thunderstorms and showers in the forecast, Fox Chapel remained sunny and windless for the vast majority of the first round.

Players didn't have too much trouble with the course's fairways, but showed noticeable difficulty elevating the ball from the rough.

“Rough's long and it's wet obviously. It's tough. It seems like the rough is a little longer this year than it was in previous years,” said Corey Pavin, who shot a 5-under 65.

Golfers atop the leaderboard seemed to have no problems with finding the cup on Fox Chapel's greens, either. Last year, just one player, Jon Huston, scored a 65 or lower in the first round. Eleven accomplished that feat Thursday.

Perry in familiar position

Kenny Perry began defense of his only major championship in the afternoon with the soft greens still yielding plenty of birdies. Perry, who was 1-over following last year's first round, struggled with his putter to finish with an even-par 70, which puts him six shots behind co-leaders Joe Durant, David Frost and Doug Garwood.

“It's very similar to my first round last year, so I hope we have the same outcome,” said Perry, who was 20-under over the final 54 holes in 2013. “It was very gettable course today, so it was very depressing to look up and be six shots behind before I started.

“I was thinking, ‘wow, I got to go,' but I could never get it going. I was always stepping my toes for whatever reason. I would hit it close, but three-putt. I shot even, so I'll have to shoot three great rounds to catch up.”

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