LUTZ — Teeing off at 7:37 on Saturday morning, Michael Allen admitted he might not have been completely ready to play his second round of the Encompass Insurance Pro-Am.
"It's the senior tour," Allen said. "You're not supposed to play so early."
After shaking the cobwebs, Allen got hot on the back nine and posted 4-under 67 at TPC Tampa Bay before most of the first-round contenders even teed off. He had a two-day total of 9-under 133, five shots clear of Olin Browne, Bernhard Langer, Sandy Lyle and Corey Pavin.
It tied the largest 36-hole lead in the 25-year history of the Champions Tour event.
Six sat at 3 under, including Kenny Perry and tour rookie Kirk Triplett. Perry made a move on the back nine with four birdies among his first five holes. But he double bogeyed the 15th and 18th holes to fall back.
Allen, who has one win on the tour and one on the Nationwide Tour since turning pro in 1984, made 10 straight pars to start his morning. He then birdied the 11th hole and eagled the par-5 12th by draining a 40-foot putt. He ended the round by making an 8-foot birdie putt on 18.
"On the front nine, I thought I hit some good shots, but I never could get it very close," Allen said. "I just seemed to be playing a little bit better on the back nine. I was able to wake up a little bit. I had much better opportunities for birdie on the back nine."
First-round leader Bruce Fleischer, who also played in the morning, fell out of contention with 7-over 78. One morning player who managed to hang around was Lyle, who shot his second straight 2-under 69.
Lyle's only setback was a double bogey on the par-5 14th. He tried to reach the green in two, but his shot from 250 yards out trickled into the water.
"The 2 under is a little disappointing, just as it was (Friday)," Lyle said. "I played well enough. I had enough birdies. But the double bogey … was a bit of a setback."
Most of Allen's pursuers played in the afternoon, which meant they had all day to look at his score while he rested. Pavin looked like he would be the player to challenge Allen. He made the turn at 2 under and got as close as two shots after the 14th hole. But he bogeyed three of his last four holes to fall five shots back.
Allen, 53, is in position to win his first tournament since the 2009 Senior PGA Championship. He spent most of his time on the PGA Tour in 2009 and 2010. He had two top-10 finishes in 2010, including second at the Viking Classic.
Last year, Allen played in 19 Champions Tour events, and he plans on focusing full time on the senior circuit this year. He finished second two weeks ago at the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic.
With some close calls on both tours over the past few years, it figured Allen will break through sooner or later. But he knows it's just as difficult to win on the Champions Tour as it is on the PGA Tour.
"These guys have beaten me my whole life," Allen said. "They are still great players. That's the fun part of this tour. When I play well out here, I have a chance to win. But it's hard to win out here."
No player is in better position than Allen. He'll have more than 24 hours of rest before teeing off in the final group. Because Champions events are only three rounds, players will have to take some risks today in order to close the gap.
Allen likes where he is, but he doesn't believe his competitors will be intimidated.
"They've got to be pushing a little bit, hopefully," Allen said. "Of course, they probably look at the scoreboard and think, 'That's just Allen up there. No big deal.' "
Rodney Page can be reached at email@example.com.