Scott Hoch, a two-time former winner, shot a 5-under 65 early Friday and is tied for third place with first-round co-leaders Bo Van Pelt and Patrick Sheehan, who both posted rounds of 2-under 68. The trio is knotted at 7-under-par 133.
Franco opened on the back nine at Brown Deer Park Golf Club and birdied the 12th. He ran off three birdies in a row from the 14th, but found trouble with a bogey at No. 17.
Franco, a three-time winner on the PGA Tour, birdied the first, then parred his next his next three holes. He birdied the par-3 fifth, then two-putted from a long distance for birdie at the par-5 sixth, a birdie that moved him to 8 under and gave him the outright lead.
Beem momentarily tied for the top spot on the leaderboard, but Franco looked like he was going to retake the lead. He knocked a 7-iron to 20 feet at the seventh, but missed the birdie try.
Franco once again took sole possession of the lead. At the par-4 ninth, Franco hit a 9-iron to 5 feet. He calmly stroked home the putt to get into the clubhouse at 9 under par.
A late bogey by Beem dropped him one shot off the pace and gave Franco his first 36-hole lead on the PGA Tour since the 2000 event in New Orleans, his last win on tour.
Franco credits something most players on tour would never think - less practice.
'It's no complication,' Franco said. 'Maybe I need it, but I don't like it. I'd rather go fishing. I hope every day's the same.'
Beem, who won the PGA Championship in 2002 at Hazeltine, also started on the back nine Friday and tallied two birdies in his first six holes. At the par-4 17th, Beem holed a long putt from off the green for his third birdie of the round.
Beem played a spectacular 9-iron to set up birdie at the third, then saved a miraculous par at five. He missed the green with his second, then chipped 20 feet left and long of the hole. Beem sank the long par save to keep his round going.
Franco took the lead at minus-9, but Beem answered. At the par-5 sixth, Beem knocked a 5-wood from 262 yards on to the front edge of the putting surface. His eagle try stopped two feet from the hole, where Beem tapped in for birdie to once again match Franco atop the leaderboard.
The former PGA Champion's flat stick let him down at No. 7. Beem played a safe 7-iron 35 feet right of the hole and gave his birdie try a good run at the hole. He missed 3 feet left, then his par try also missed on the left side.
Beem parred out after the bogey to trail Franco by a stroke.
Dan Forsman (68) and Jason Dufner (67) share sixth place at minus-6.
Scott Verplank, currently 12th on the U.S. Ryder Cup points table, carded a 1-under 69 on Friday and is tied for eighth at 5-under-par 135. Danny Briggs, Todd Fischer and Olin Browne, three of the eight first-round co-leaders, shot even-par 70s to join Verplank, Kirk Triplett (67) and Jay Williamson (68) four shots off Franco's lead.
Robert Gamez and Brett Quigley, the sixth and seventh co-leaders from Thursday, only managed 1-over 71s on Friday. They are part of a group in 14th at 4-under par, along with defending champion Kenny Perry (67) and Fred Funk (68).
The eighth and final co-leader, Brian Kortan, was not as fortunate as his fellow first-round leaders. He struggled to a 9-over 79 and missed the cut at plus-one 141.
Eighty-six players advance to the weekend.