Masters champion Phil Mickelson, in his first tournament since winning the green jacket at Augusta, was three shots back.
'I just made some putts all day, and I drove it well,' Ellis said about his first lead in his 61 tournaments on the PGA Tour. 'And I made a nice chip-in on 18, so that was nice.'
Ellis was one of the lucky players at the weather-plagued tournament - he actually completed two rounds.
The first round was delayed by bad weather and then postponed because of darkness. A heavy, daylong rain Friday prevented play. That put 75 golfers, including Ellis, out at 7 a.m. CDT Saturday to complete the first round. Second-round play began at 8:15 a.m.
A large system of severe weather approaching the area and the threat of lightning caused play to be suspended at 4:29 p.m. Saturday. A little more than an hour later, play was postponed again with 77 players still on the course.
'After looking at the system and the way it was moving, we determined that it would be better not to send the players out again,' said rules official Tony Wallin.
Weather permitting, the second round was to be finished early Sunday. The cut would then be made, with the third round expected to begin about 10:30 a.m. Officials hoped to complete the third round Sunday and play the fourth round Monday.
'Our regulations tell us our first goal is to play 72,' Wallin said.
Ellis had not played in 3 1/2 weeks after breaking the little toe on his left foot. He capped his 27 holes Saturday with a 40-foot chip to birdie 18, putting him one shot ahead of Charles Howell III.
Howell, who was 1 over through five holes when play was stopped Thursday, finished the first round with a 66 and shot a 64 for the second round.
'I think the rain delay was very good for me,' Howell said, 'simply because I got a chance to stop and then kind of start over.'
Mickelson finished up his first round at 67. He had a second-round 65, with eight birdies and a bogey on 18, which left him in a four-way tie for third place among those who completed the round.
'It's difficult to know, at times, in your decision making on certain shots if it's going to be a 54- or 72-hole tournament,' Mickelson said. 'But you try to put that out of your mind and play it as a 54-hole event, and try to make as many birdies as you can.'
Paul Azinger, a co-leader in the first round, was also 12 under through 11 holes.
'I'm disappointed that I couldn't keep going,' Azinger said. 'I hate coming out at seven o'clock in the morning. It's a 4:30 wake-up call. But you know, there's nothing you can do about it.'
The delays and uncertainty over play affected some players more than others.
Howell, 23, said it didn't bother him, although he didn't like getting up at 4 a.m. two days in a row. Vijay Singh, who shot a first-round 70 and was 6 under through 10 holes on Saturday, said the delays were frustrating.
'You can't do anything, just sit around,' Singh said. 'You want to go, and then you stop. You want to go, and stop. And then you are waking up in the morning and it's not very healthy, either. I know some guys are waking up at 4:30 in the morning for two or three days in a row. Physically that's not very good.'
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.