Triplett, Perry 'pretty much lapping everybody' at U.S. Senior Open

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Triplett, Perry 'pretty much lapping everybody' at U.S. Senior Open

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Triplett, Perry 'pretty much lapping everybody' at U.S. Senior Open

PEABODY, Mass. – Did Kenny Perry and Kirk Triplett just make the 38th U.S. Senior Open a two-man race?

That’s what they appeared to do on Saturday afternoon at Salem Country Club, with Triplett shooting 4-under 66 and Perry 67 to pull away from the pack on an overcast, breezy and humid New England afternoon.

“Tremendous,” is how Tom Lehman (70, T-4) described the strong play of the 36-hole co-leaders. “I wasn’t quite expecting that. … Four under, when you have the lead, really is sensational golf. You really have to tip your hat.”

Triplett and Perry were knotted at 15 under par heading down the 18th fairway. Perry, who won the 2013 U.S. Senior Open in Omaha, had 181 yards in, and was between clubs. Instead of hitting 7-iron to the front of the green (it has two tiers, and the flag was up top), he took a little off a a 6-iron, tugged it long and left, and then ran his chip off the front of the green. He did well to make bogey.

“I outthought myself there,” Perry said. “I had nothing over there (for a third shot.)”

Triplett, meanwhile, who’d earlier in his round holed a bunker shot for eagle at the par-5 sixth and chipped in for birdie at the ninth, had a 10-foot birdie putt to take a two-shot lead into Sunday. But his putt stayed just high, curling around the hole, leaving him at 66 to back up rounds of 62-67. 

Triplett’s three-round total (15-under 195) established a 54-hole record at the U.S. Senior Open. Perry’s total (67-196) also eclipsed the previous 54-hole mark, which was 198, set by Olin Browne at Inverness in 2011.

“I’m going to have to do something extraordinary tomorrow to beat this guy,” Perry said of Triplett.

A few big-name players who started the day in contention – Fred Couples, Bernhard Langer and Lehman – began the round with great promise but did not get very much going. Couples shot even-par 70 to stay at 7 under; Langer, who began his day at 8 under, three off the lead, made three early bogeys and never did recover. He had to rally to shoot 72.

Lehman, seeking his first USGA title at 58, played his closing nine in 38 after playing nicely (32) on the front nine. He’ll start Sunday tied with Couples, eight shots back.

Though there have been a pair of 62s shot this week at a softened Salem layout (the second one posted by Brandt Jobe on Saturday, which was three shots better than the next-best round), the chasers likely will need Perry and Triplett to do some falling back to have a chance.

Jobe climbed all the way from T-29 to solo third with his record-tying round. Nonetheless, he’s six back, with the two players ahead of him playing some sensational golf this week.

“They’re pretty much lapping everybody,” Couples said. “If you take away Brandt Jobe’s score, they’re seven or eight shots ahead of the next guy.”

Saturday’s most surprising development was the lackluster play of Langer, the dominant player on the PGA Tour Champions. He struggled with his putting, made three consecutive bogeys starting on the second hole, turned in 38, and basically relinquished any shot at capturing his third consecutive major this season. He is nine shots behind, at 204.

“I’m definitely disappointed that I didn’t get it going today,” Langer said. “… I don’t know when I’ve been 3 over par for a few holes. It’s been a long time, thank goodness.”

With winds picking up from the south and gusting to 20 mph, Triplett and Perry were the only players in the day’s final seven groups to post scores below par. And in doing that, they left most of the field well behind.

“I think what we both wanted to accomplish today was to get some cushion,” said Triplett, 55, a three-time winner on the PGA Tour and five-time winner on the PGA Tour Champions who never has won a major. “I was worried that all these guys at 5, 6 and 7 (under) were going to throw some 5s and 6s (under par) at us today. … They fell back a little bit. It was tricky.”

Said Perry, who has a considerable power advantage over Triplett off the tee, “It felt like match play out there a little bit. Kirk is down-the-middle, very controlled, doesn’t get flustered. He’s going to be a tough guy to beat tomorrow. He doesn’t make many mistakes.

“I’ve got my work cut out.”

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