5 things: Who still has a shot to win Senior PGA?
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Five players outside the top three at the 72nd Senior PGA at Valhalla Golf Club are worth keeping an eye on as possibilities to be a part of the winning trifecta. (Hey, I’m just over the river and through the woods, so to speak, from iconic Churchill Downs; I’ve got to make a racetrack reference.)
• Kenny Perry: OK, maybe he didn’t help himself by following his 3 under start by going 3 over in Round 2.
“I played beautifully to finish the first round this morning,” he explained Friday, “then I come out and hit a drop-kick, duck-hook off the first tee – kind of the nemesis of what I’ve been fighting. . . . I just struggled from then on.”
With all the success he enjoyed in his late 40s, Perry expected more of himself after he became eligible for senior golf.
“If I can somehow figure out how to put it together and make it happen this week, this will be a huge victory for me,” Perry said. “Seeing where I have come from the past year and a half, I won three times in 2008, twice in 2009. Then I haven’t even been close. I mean, I’m not even competitive anymore. I’m like I just disappeared; I turned 50 and like I didn’t know how to play anymore.”
If there’s a place that’s likely to produce magic for Perry, it’s Valhalla, where he enjoyed the greatest week of his career as a member of the winning U.S. Ryder Cup team three years ago.
Key stat: The four par 5s at Valhalla rank among the five easiest holes, but Perry didn’t birdie any of them in Round 2.
• Tom Lehman: There’s nothing like getting value on one of the pre-race favorites and that’s what you’re getting with the defending champion, who improved by three shots from Round 1 to Round 2.
Lehman has played Valhalla’s two most difficult holes, the sixth and 17th, in even par, which wouldn’t be a bad way to get through them over the weekend, even though he’s not particularly pleased with his performance thus far.
“I finally got a little bit of something going the last seven holes or so, but I’m hitting it all over the map and not feeling good about my swing,” he said. “So, on the one hand, to be 1 under hitting it lousy is OK, but on the other hand, I know what I’m capable of.”
• Brad Bryant: I don’t know what happened during a 30-minute spell in his first round, when he stumbled to back-to-back double bogeys at Nos. 4 and 5. But throw out those two hiccups and he’s held a mostly steady course; he was perhaps in the process of letting Friday’s round get away from him before he birdied two of his last four holes. Maybe that portends for good things to come over the weekend.
He’s won a senior major at Whistling Straits, so he should find nothing that’s overly intimidating at Valhalla.
• Loren Roberts: There’s a lot to like from his opening 36 holes: 21 putts in his opening round, three straight birdies soon after he resumed his first round Friday morning, second-round birdies at the 12th, 15th and 16 holes – three of the four toughest holes on the incoming nine.
“It’s nice to feel like I can hit a few shots again,” said Roberts, who had a season-best finish (third place) in his most recent Champions Tour start. “I didn’t hit all the shots well today . . . but the quality shots I hit were quality shots. I feel like I’m going in the right direction.”
• Eduardo Romero: The 2008 U.S. Senior Open champion grabbed his share of attention with a 5-under 67 in Round 2, thanks to six birdies and an eagle, but he could be even closer without a pair of bogeys at the par 5s.
A “stupid mistake” is how he described his effort at the par-5 18th on Friday, when he went from a fairway bunker to a greenside bunker and then left the ball in the sand with his third shot.
“But there’s two more days to go and I’m very happy with my game.”
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• Bizarre stats of the week: Mark Hayes, a four-time winner on the PGA Tour in the 1970s and ’80, shot an 89 in Round 1, then needed this many putts over the first 10 holes of his second round: 1-1-1-1-1-1-1-2-1-1.