Defending champion Tom Purtzer, leading money winner and last week's Senior British Open champion Loren Roberts, two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange, J.C. Snead and Keith Fergus are knotted in second place at 4-under-par 68.
Bean parred his first two holes, before breaking into red figures at the par-5 third. He canned an 8-footer there, and two holes later, sank a 15- foot birdie putt.
The 56-year-old, who won 11 times on the PGA TOUR, but is winless on the Champions Tour, could not get anything going the rest of his opening nine. He parred the last four holes on the front side, then parred No. 10, but things changed on the back nine at the TPC of the Twin Cities.
He rolled home a 25-foot birdie putt at the 11th, but found trouble at the par-5 12th. Bean knocked one in the water and left with a bogey to fall back to 2-under par for the championship.
Bean parred 13 and 14, but holed an 18-footer for birdie at the 15th. He made it two in a row with a 7-footer at the 16th, but his play on the closing hole gave him sole possession of the lead.
His drive found the right side of the fairway, then from 200 yards out, hit a 5-iron 13 feet from the hole. Bean missed the eagle try, but tapped in for the birdie.
'I played very solid,' said Bean. 'Today was getting back to routine. I've played well the last few weeks - ever since I changed my grip on the short putts to a modified claw. I don't have as much tension.'
Bean has been on the elder circuit now for almost three years, but has yet to visit the winner's circle. He has a reason for his problems and the claw is hopefully the remedy.
'I watched my girls grow up for 10 years. When I came back out, the ball-striking was there, but the putting wasn't,' admitted Bean. 'I wish I would have switched the grips when I started out.'
Purtzer, Strange and Fergus each recorded five birdies and a single bogey, while Snead, who reached 5-under par, bogeyed his 16th and 17th holes. Snead birdied the last to get within one.
Roberts, who defeated Eduardo Romero in a playoff at Turnberry last week, was cruising with three birdies in his first seven holes. He then triple-bogeyed the ninth, but collected four birdies on his second nine.
Hale Irwin, the Champions Tour's all-time wins leader, David Edwards, Andy North, two-time winner this year Brad Bryant, Bruce Lietzke, James Mason, Tom McKnight, Mike San Filippo and Chris Starkjohann are tied for seventh place at minus-3.