If Mark Wiebe can play this well on adrenaline alone, the rest of the Champions Tour stands little chance in the weeks to come.
Four days removed from winning the Senior British Open on the fifth hole of a sudden-death playoff, Wiebe endured a second sleepless night Thursday. He arrived at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine for the opening round of the 3M Championship on Friday blurry-eyed but ready to go.
Did he ever.
It took Wiebe all of two holes to get the speed of the bent grass greens on this side of the pond figured out. He birdied five of the next seven, using the advice of playing partners Nick Price and Jay Haas.
“Just keep riding that pony,” Wiebe said after finishing his bogey-free round of 8-under-par 64, good for a one-shot lead over Kenny Perry and Corey Pavin.
The comic relief was a welcomed anecdote for a man finding it hard to adjust back from a six-hour time difference.
“I am exhausted, there is no doubt about it,” he said. “I’m getting better every day. But I can tell my mind and body, and I’m tired of thinking.”
If he can string together two more days like Friday, there won’t be much left to do but celebrate a little more.
Wiebe, who dealt with elbow and back injuries earlier this season, missed birdie opportunities on his first two holes but made up for it with a 35-footer on No. 5 and one from 20 feet on the next hole.
He rolled in another from off the fringe 15 feet away on No. 7 and watched an attempt from 50 feet lip out for birdie on the par-3 eighth.
“That’s when Nick Price went, “Did you misread that?’ ” Wiebe said.
Wiebe got to 7 under on No. 14, at which point trying again for a full night’s rest was the only thing on his mind.
“I had no clue how many under I was, nor did I care,” Wiebe said. “I just wanted to play and try to hang on with some good shots.”
He had several — the score was his best in 10 rounds played in the 3M — and Wiebe was far from alone in that regard.
Twenty-eight of the 81 players in the field shot rounds in the 60s on a course that featured a fair amount of wind but super-receptive greens.
“The greens are perfect,” said Peter Senior, one of five players two shots back after a 6-under round of 66 that included birdies on all four par 3s. “These are probably the best greens we’ve putted so far this year. We putt on good greens mainly but these are perfect speed.”
Perry, playing for the first time since winning two major championships earlier this summer, birdied the first three holes and five of the first six. He finished with nine birdies, the most on any card in the first round.
“I was a little nervous coming into the day,” he said. “I’ve been playing so great, I wondered what it would hold. But, shoot, I came out firing; I’m thinking I’m gonna shoot 59. It’s a good deal. Good to see the momentum is still going and I’m excited to get off to this start.”
It wasn’t a great day for everyone. Players with Minnesota ties generally struggled. Tom Lehman, battling an illness, got to 4 under on the 10th hole but finished at 3 under and sits in a tie for 20th. John Harris (1 under), Don Berry (1 over), David Podas (6 over) and Jim Sorenson (15 over) are well out of contention.
For many of the others, it was certainly a day to remember and one that will have to be repeated two more times to be in contention at the end.
“Maybe Mark will get really tired by tomorrow,” Perry said.