Could life get any better for Tom Lehman?
As he approached the 18th tee Saturday, a tournament official warned his group that the dark clouds hanging over North Shore Country Club meant business.
"You have about 10 minutes," he was told, before the horn would sound and everyone would need to vacate the course.
Lehman's caddie, Andy Martinez, reminded him what happened last year on the same course: The horn sounded Friday with Lehman seconds from completing his round. They had to return early the next morning.
"Don't do it to me again this year," Martinez told him.
Lehman beat the thunderstorms Saturday by five minutes, completing a second consecutive bogey-free round to seize a three-shot lead in the Encompass Championship. After opening 65-66, he's in prime position to win his first Champions Tour event of the year.
Nearly half the field was not so lucky, as 31 players had to scatter at 4:56 p.m. With the Glenview course taking 1.5 inches of rain, play was suspended for the day and was to resume at 7:15 a.m. Sunday.
That means an early wake-up for players such as Jeff Sluman.
Before his round got called, Sluman described that as "the nightmare scenario. I'm 40 minutes away, and then you (finish and) wait about four hours to play your final round. But it could be worse. I could be on the outside looking in, not in the tournament."
Sluman will rise and shine to a 7-foot birdie putt on No. 8, his next-to-last hole. If he sinks it, he will move to 8-under, five shots off the lead.
"Like a horse, you're smelling the barn and want to get in," Sluman said of being so close to finishing. "But I've been doing this for 30-something years. What are you gonna do?"
The final round will begin at 9:10 a.m. off both tees, and the leaders will go off at 11:20. The Golf Channel TV window calls for a 4 p.m. finish.
Lehman, the 1996 British Open champion, is sitting pretty at 13-under, but he knows he will have to go lower. Kirk Triplett and Roger Chapman are among four at 10-under.
"The lack of wind has led to the birdie barrage," he said. "But you still have to drive it straight. I feel good that the driver is probably the strongest club in my bag. I've hit 11 of 14 fairways two days in a row. If I can do that again (Sunday), it'll let me play offense."
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