American Perez, who moved to a cross-handed putting method two
months ago, finished in style with birdies at the final three holes
for a four-under 68 at the TPC San Antonio.
New Zealander Lee also plundered the closing stretch with four
birdies in the final five holes to join Perez.
PGA Tour rookie Andrew Loupe was also four under after 11 holes when
play was halted by darkness.
Loupe was among 45 players who did not complete the round due to
morning fog that delayed the start of play until 10am.
Perez, 38, whose sole PGA Tour win came in 2009, went cross-handed
at the San Diego tour stop in January and promptly finished tied
second that week.
"I want to putt conventional, but I don't putt well doing that," he
told Golf Channel. "So I went back to cross-handed and started to
putt well. I got some old feelings back that I had when I won, and
I've just taken it from there."
South Korean-born Lee also changed his putting grip recently, going
to the "claw" grip, so-called because the player rests his bottom
hand lightly on the club and takes most of the wrist action out of
"I was hitting it really good but I wasn't making that many putts
early in the round but at the end I was making quite a lot of
putts," said Lee, whose runner-up finish at the Puerto Rico Open
three weeks ago did wonders for his confidence.
Three-times Masters champion Mickelson, meanwhile, hit only nine
greens in regulation to fall nine strokes from the lead.
He also struggled on the greens, running up 32 putts and missing
several short attempts, including one from barely two feet for a
double-bogey at his final hole.
[to top of second column]
Mickelson will need a sizzling second round merely to make the
halfway cut as he works towards Augusta.
While some players, notably Tiger Woods and Adam Scott, generally
prefer to take time off before the majors and prepare at home,
Mickelson likes to play his way in.
He is making his first appearance at the Texas Open in more than two
decades, and is also planning to contest next week's Houston Open.
Four-time major winner Ernie Els temporarily joined Mickelson at
five over, before clawing back three late birdies for a 74.
The Texas Open, which dates to 1922, is the oldest PGA Tour event
held in the same city every year.
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina;
editing by Frank Pingue)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.