Kenny Perry shoots 64 to match Kirk Triplettat U.S. Senior Open
PEABODY — Upon completing his morning round, clubhouse-leader Kirk Triplett knew a challenger would emerge from the afternoon group in the second round of the 38th U.S. Senior Open at Salem Country Club.
Feeling good to start his day, spraying the ball off the tee was the last thing Kenny Perry envisioned. But after a bogey-bogey start, the Kentuckian channeled his energy and became the golfer Triplett was talking about.
Perry reeled off eight birdies over the final 14 holes to post a 6-under-par 64 and match Triplett for the lead at 11-under 129, which is now the 36-hole tournament record.
Perry and Triplett lead Doug Garwood by 2 shots while Scott Verplank and Bernhard Langer are lurking 3 shots back.
“I was really looking forward to playing this round today, I really felt good about what was going on,” Perry said. “I guess I was too anxious, too amped up and I hooked it off the first tee and then I had a terrible drive right off the second hole and I’m thinking, ‘Oh, my goodness, I’m not going to break 80 today.’ ”
Perry slowed things down and found his rhythm off the tee, hitting 10 of the final 12 fairways to put himself in position to score on a golf course that played similar to Thursday’s opening round.
Slowing the swing down put him in better position to hit the green, which he did 15 out of his final 16 holes, and then got hot with the flat stick.
“I probably made four putts outside of 20 feet, which I haven’t been doing all year, which is very nice to finally see,” Perry said. “I felt like Bernhard Langer out there for once.”
He said getting the first birdie of the day at No. 5 calmed the nerves and he added birdies at Nos. 6, 7 and 9 to make the turn in 33.
Playing in the same group with Langer, Perry was able to get a line off the German’s putt on No. 11, leading to what Perry estimated to be a 35- or 40-footer.
“I just laid it out there, and, shoot, it just snapped right in the middle of the hole,” he said. “Thank goodness it hit the hole, I think it was running pretty fast when it went in.”
He made another birdie putt at No. 13 and then added birdies at Nos. 16 and 17, each coming on putts in the 15- to 20-foot variety.
Even though he rolled it as well as he did, the greens here are not something you can ever be too comfortable on.
“I had better speed today. The ball was getting to the hole nicely and it wasn’t going much by the hole,” Perry said. “I don’t think anybody can be comfortable on these greens. I really don’t. I think if you’ve been a member for 20 years, you’re not going to be comfortable on these greens.”
Langer put a run of four birdies together between Nos. 12 and 15 to vault up the leaderboard, finishing with a 65 and in a share of fourth.
“I’m in a good place, but there’s a lot of great players around me,” said Langer, who is attempting to make it 3-for-3 in majors. “I just saw the leaderboard, the top eight or 10 guys is pretty big names and great players.”
Fred Couples is among four players at 7-under following a 65. He has been among the longer drivers on tour and hit 13-of-14 fairways. He had six birdies and one bogey on his card, the lone blemish coming at No. 18 which closed out his first nine.
“I like where I’m at,” Couples said. “Five-under is better than playing the same and shooting 2-under. We all know the lower you go, the more under par you are, but for me, if I can drive it like that, I’ll be in great shape.”
When he is out on the course, his back is typically OK, but waking up and after he finishes his round still cause significant problems.
“It’s feeling good. If I feel good, I feel like I can be in contention,” Couples said. “If I have a good round like I did on Sunday and win, yeah, it’s a great feeling. But it doesn’t make my — like right now, after shooting 65, I feel like I am going to break in half standing here, but it’s like that every day.”
Couples was up at 5 a.m. to get loose and limber up on the range for his 8:13 tee time.
A day after a record-breaking opening round of 62, Triplett once again took advantage of benign weather conditions to put up a 67 in the morning with four birdies and one bogey on his card.
Triplett made his first bogey of the tournament at No. 8 when he put his second shot on a downhill lie into the lip of the bunker to the right of the green.
Play was suspended by weather at 6:41 p.m. with 24 players still on the course. Play is scheduled to resume today at 6:45 a.m.
When play was halted there were 61 players at 1-over or better, but the cut line still has the chance to flip back to 2-over, which would get Nick Faldo into the weekend after he shot a 69.
If the line holds at 1-over, it would be the lowest 36-hole cut in Senior Open history, 1 shot lower than Inverness in 2011.