Perry Shrugs off Rocky Start to Share Lead with Triplett June 30, 2017 | PEABODY, MASS. By Ron Driscoll, USGA

Kirk Triplett set a 36-hole scoring record by shooting 67 for a 129 total, before Kenny Perry got hot in the afternoon and caught him. (USGA/Jeff Haynes)

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Kenny Perry’s high expectations for Friday’s second round of the 38th U.S. Senior Open Championship at Salem Country Club were nearly derailed before he got fully into his day.

“I was really looking forward to playing this round today, and I guess I was too anxious, too amped up,” said Perry, 56, of Franklin, Ky. “I hooked it off the first tee. Then I hit a terrible drive on the second hole. I thought, oh my goodness, I’m not going to break 80 today.”

The veteran of more than 50 major championships and several Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams recognized what led to the pair of opening bogeys and made the needed adjustment. Before long, he was reeling off four birdies in a five-hole stretch on the way to a round of 6-under-par 64 and a share of the 36-hole lead with Kirk Triplett, who followed up his record-tying 62 on Thursday with a 3-under 67. Their 129 totals broke Michael Allen’s 36-hole championship scoring record of 130 at Omaha (Neb.) Country Club in 2013. They are two strokes up on Doug Garwood, who shot 67 for a 9-under total of 131.

“My golf swing does not work well when my transition is fast like that. I need to gather it up at the top, pause, and then off we go,” said Perry, who went on to win that 2013 Senior Open at Omaha with record weekend rounds of 64-63. “I think that’s experience. I was able to realize what was going on; I just needed to be patient and slow down.”

Perry knocked a 7-iron to about a foot on the par-3 fifth hole, then made a comfortable two-putt birdie on the par-5 sixth hole to steady himself. He added six more birdies without a bogey over his final 12 holes, including a 35-foot putt on No. 16.

“When I got hot, when I won in ’13 in Omaha, I did the same kind of thing,” Perry noted. “I was rolling them in from everywhere.”

Perry played with 2010 Senior Open champion Bernhard Langer, who got on a birdie run of his own, making four straight from holes 12-15 on the way to a 5-under 65 that pulled him into a tie for fourth place at 8-under 132 with Scott Verplank, who has put together matching 66s.

Langer is seeking his third consecutive senior major victory and 10th overall, which would add to his record total. Gary Player won three straight senior majors in 1987-88, while Perry captured three consecutive senior majors in 2013-14, though he skipped one, the 2013 Senior Open Championship.

“If you can beat Bernhard, you have a chance to win the tournament,” said Perry, who has eight victories on PGA Tour Champions. “That guy’s in there every week.”

The second round was halted at 6:41 p.m. EDT with 24 players left on the course, leaving the cutline in flux. Sixty-one players stood at 1 over par or better when play was suspended, but seven of them were still on the course. The second round is scheduled to resume at 6:45 a.m. Saturday.

When Triplett heard that his two-round total eclipsed Allen’s four-year-old mark, he woofed, “Yes, I beat Michael Allen! He was my college teammate [at the] University of Nevada. The second I see him, I’m telling him.”

Fred Couples (68-65), Tom Lehman (65-68) and Paul Goydos (65-68) are tied for sixth place at 7-under 133, and Joe Durant is also 7 under with one hole to play. Olin Browne, who opened with a 63 on Thursday, slipped to a 3-over 73 on Friday and is tied for 12th place at 4-under 136 with five other players, including 2015 champion Jeff Maggert.

Eight-time major champion Tom Watson, who has been runner-up in this championship three times, will play the weekend after twin rounds of 1-under 69, while defending champion Gene Sauers (5-over 145) will not. Two-time champion Hale Irwin, who matched his age (72) on Thursday, shot 77 on Friday and will miss the cut in his 22nd Senior Open.

For co-leader Perry, the rocky start was a distant memory.

“I really like this golf course; I really like how it sets up for my game,” he said. “I just didn’t need to let two holes determine the outcome of my tournament.”

Ron Driscoll is the manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at rdriscoll@usga.org.

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