There were seven ways to shoot 67 Thursday at the U.S. Senior Open, but Tom Lehman was the only one to do it with a birdie on Omaha Country Club's 18th hole.
A chip-in, too, from 45 feet that he said was worth only few style points.
“It was probably a 2 or 3 (for difficulty),” said Lehman, who chipped with an 8-iron. “It was downhill, which you just kind of get it going, it's going to get to the hole. The big thing was the lie. It was a little bit squirrely. The grass was growing against the ball.
“It wasn't that difficult.”
Lehman's company at the top of the stellar leader board included four other winners of senior majors — Michael Allen, Fred Funk, Mark O'Meara and Kenny Perry. Jay Don Blake and Gary Hallberg were also at 3 under.
“It's not a fabulous score, but it's a very good score,” O'Meara said. “A lot of these guys still play tremendous golf, even well into their 50s. It doesn't surprise me to see so many guys kind of bunched up.”
The seven-way logjam is the largest after the first round at a U.S. Senior Open and matches the Champions Tour record, which last happened at a senior major, the 2008 Tradition.
For those skeptical of OCC's worthiness as an Open course, note that it was the highest score to lead the opening round of a Senior Open since 2006, when 67 led at Prairie Dunes.
Twenty players broke par 70 Thursday, when the course was playing at 6,659 yards. Another dozen, including Tom Watson and Tom Kite, were at par.
Fred Couples was at 1 over.
“I'm actually kind of surprised that 3 under is low,” Funk said. “I think they're a little dodgy with the greens. The greens are really not up to speed.
“I'm surprised how brown they got. They really changed colors in the last day or so.”
The field flips starting assignments Friday, with Thursday's late finishers going first. The low 60 and ties after the second round will play on the weekend.
Allen also ended his round with a birdie, at the par-4 ninth. After their last birdies, O'Meara parred his final five holes, Funk and Blake their final four, Perry his final three and Hallberg his last.
O'Meara had the day's only bogey-free round.
“There were only a couple times I was in jeopardy,” said the winner of the 1998 Masters and British Open. “I hit most of the greens, except for when I ricocheted off of Calc's ball.”
On the downhill par-3 16th, O'Meara's tee shot hit Mark Calcavecchia's ball on the green and caromed to the fringe. Under the Rules of Golf, Calcavecchia — who shot a 2-over 72 — replaced his ball on the green and O'Meara had to play his from where it stopped.
“I wasn't very happy. I hit a good shot,” O'Meara said. “It probably would have been about pin high, about 14 feet left of the hole. Instead, I'm struggling to make a par.”
Lehman said he enjoys being in O'Meara's group because of his swing tempo.
“Just the flight of his ball is so nice to watch,” said the former British Open champion. “It's always good for me when I watch him play to get that feel for his rhythm and it hopefully helps me a little bit as well.”
Funk, whose only bogey came from 55 yards out on the par-5 second hole, said he made some nice par saves.
A concern was his back, which he said hadn't felt better all year when he started his round.
“I hit kind of a funny swing and bad swing on the par-3 fifth and it started bothering me again,” Funk said.
Hallberg, the only player in the afternoon to get to 4 under, finished on the front nine and bogeyed the par-4 eighth hole that yielded just one birdie Thursday.
“I went over the green and chipped back and ended up bogeying there,” said Hallberg, who finished second to Couples at last year's Senior British Open. “But I drove the ball very well. I just had fun out there. I was real loose.”
Allen and Blake, who like Perry played in the morning, had two of the day's five eagles recorded on the par-5 sixth. Allen chipped in from 25 yards after holing a chip for birdie on the par-3 third. Blake sank a 12-foot putt for his.
Allen won in Mississippi in the spring and has been in the top five at the two most recent senior majors.
Blake is the only golfer to play in the U.S. Open before coming to the Senior Open. He said his experience at Merion taught him patience for a course with similarly thick rough.
“There I started being too aggressive in trying to get it out too far from the rough or take a big risk trying to knock it on the green,” Blake said, “and got myself on the wrong side of making pars.”
Perry wasn't convinced 67 would hold up for the lead. He made five birdies and two bogeys.
“The great score obviously would be 5 under, I would think,” said Perry, who's trying to win his second senior major in a row. “I see somebody actually hitting more fairways than I hit (nine) and putting a little bit better, and they're going to shoot a good score.
“It's out there.”
No one found it Thursday.