PEABODY, Mass. — Kenny Perry‘s three-stroke deficit after the first day of the U.S. Senior Open had turned to six by the time he teed off in the second round Friday.
Two holes later, Perry had fallen behind leader Kirk Triplett by eight strokes.
“I guess I was too anxious, too amped up. I was thinking, ‘Oh my goodness, I’m not going to break 80 today,'” he said after shooting a 6-under 64 to tie Triplett for the lead at a record 11 under at once-fearsome, but suddenly forgiving Salem Country Club.
“I just started thinking, I’ve got to figure out a way to settle myself down,” Perry said. “Most of the time, you take off poorly, you stay in that funk. I just didn’t need to let two holes determine the outcome of my tournament.”
Triplett followed his opening 62 with a 67 in the morning, and then Perry hit a bad drive on each of the first two holes. But he birdied four of the last five holes on the front nine and shot 31 on the back, missing a 25-foot birdie putt on No. 18 just moments before the horn sounded to clear the course because of an approaching storm.
The 36-hole total of 129 was one stroke better than the record set by Michael Allen in 2013 in Omaha, Nebraska. Perry won that year.
Doug Garwood (67) was two strokes back at 9 under, and Bernhard Langer (65) and Scott Verplank (66) were 8 under. Tom Lehman (68), Fred Couples (65) and Paul Goydos (68) were tied for sixth at 7 under with Joe Durant, who was among the 24 players still on the course when play was suspended.
“I’m in a good place,” said Langer, who won the first two majors on the PGA Tour Champions this year. “But there’s a lot of great players around me. I mean, let’s not kid each other. I just saw the leaderboard. The top eight or 10 guys is pretty big names and great players.”
One day after matching the record for any round in any senior tour major, Triplett broke Allen’s 36-hole tournament mark. Told that he knocked his college teammate from the record books, Triplett gave a fist pump and an emphatic “Yes!”
“The second I see him, I’m telling him,” said Triplett, who played at Nevada and now lives five minutes from Allen in Scottsdale, Arizona. “I love to beat him, but he beats me probably more than I beat him. I’m sure he looks at me and goes, `How did that guy beat me today?”
A few hours later, Triplett only held a share of the record.
Doug Garwood followed his opening 64 with a 67 on Friday and was two strokes back, as scores rose from Day 1 but still remained lower than when the Senior Open was played here in 2001 and Bruce Fleischer won at even par.
Garwood, who won the SAS Championship last year and has one top-10 finish in 2017, has been fighting back injuries — a herniated disk, arthritis, bone spurs and misalignment of the spine — that required an epidural last week. He has tried stretching, but on Tuesday he had to interrupt his practice round to lie down.
“Usually, the best thing is just laying on my butt,” he said, comparing himself to a three-legged dog that just needs to change the way it runs. “I’ve got to quit trying to run like a four-legged dog and just run like a three-legged dog. What I got is what I got.”
Garwood said he went to see Dr. Robert Watkins, who has treated Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw, but there was little he could do.
“He said, well, do you have to golf? I said, well …,” Garwood said. “None of them wanted to operate. It did go away, but as soon as I start golfing and twisting, it just comes back. It’s not totally debilitating, but when you’re try to play at a high level, a little bit matters.”
Among the notables making the weekend was 67-year-old Tom Watson, who shot back-to-back 69s after missing the cut at the Senior PGA Championship last month.
Defending champion Gene Sauers was at 5 over and was projected to miss the cut at 1 over.