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Perry shoots 7 under, takes 1-shot lead at Dick’s

August 16, 2013

ENDICOTT, New York (AP) — Kenny Perry’s magical ride continues.

Chasing his third victory of the year on the Champions Tour, Perry shot a 7-under 65 on Friday to take a one-shot lead after the first round of the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open.

Perry, the Senior Players and U.S. Senior Open winner this summer, had three birdies over the final four holes to surge past Bart and Brad Bryant and Joel Edwards.

Esteban Toledo, Jeff Freeman, Rick Fehr, and Russ Cochran were tied for fifth at 67 as more than half the field broke par at the short-and-narrow En-Joie Golf Club under nearly ideal scoring conditions.

Perry’s round turned with a brilliant shot at the par-5 12th hole. He holed a 6-iron from 187 yards for eagle. He also had six birdies to go with one bogey, hitting 15 fairways and putting just 26 times.

“I was 3-under par, playing nicely, cruising along,” said Perry, who leads the Champions Tour in money winnings with over $1.5 million. “You have a lightning bolt hit you like that — ‘Hey man, we can shoot a low score.’ It really pumped me up. It really got me excited. It got me motivated. It made me more aggressive.”

Just one shot behind, it felt like the good old days for the Bryants — save the aches and pains. They were tied for the lead until Perry came along in the final group.

“Someone looked at the scoreboard and said, ‘Man, that Bryant, he must be good,” Brad said, smiling broadly. “He’s leading the tournament and went back out for 18 more (holes).’ ”

Bart, at 50 a rookie on the senior tour, is trying to recapture a lot of what he lost at the end of his PGA Tour career, when two wrist surgeries kept him away from the game for three years.

“It was frustrating. It was tough. I was out for a good three years and well over two that I couldn’t even putt or chip or anything,” Bart said. “Honestly, I really thought that I was probably done. It was a long three years. Just to be out here playing, it just feels so good.”

Bart birdied No. 2, hitting sand wedge to about 10 feet right of the hole and made a good putt after missing one on the opening hole. At No. 12 he hit to 6 inches out of a greenside bunker and made another birdie, then hit 5-iron at the par-3 14th hole to 15 feet and made that. He capped the round with a 30-foot birdie putt on the closing hole.

“When I first came out here this year, I didn’t have a lot of game,” said Bart, whose best finish so far this year is a tie for fourth two weeks ago at the 3M Championship. “My golf muscles were not built back up. I just wasn’t back at the level that I was when I left, or even close. As the year’s gone on, I’ve gotten a little bit stronger, I’ve lost a little bit of pain, and I’m starting to get some of those shots back in my arsenal, so I feel like I’m kind of creeping in on some really good golf and maybe having the ability to compete. To win out here is very tough.”

If not for a bogey at the par-3 fourth hole, Brad Bryant would have had a share of the lead. Still, despite a bad right foot that hobbled him all last year and an operation that has not provided any improvement to his health, Brad had a stellar round. He made three putts inside 6 feet, chipped in from 18 feet for birdie at the par-3 14th hole, and closed his round with a 12-foot birdie putt at No. 18.

Happy with his round. Even happier with that of his brother.

“Seeing Bart up there is always a good thing. He’s world-class,” Brad said. “It was really unfortunate that his wrists basically disintegrated. All the cartilage just went away and the doctors couldn’t figure out why.

“I had a nice career on the PGA Tour, but I never was good as Bart. He was top 30 in the world for a couple of years. If he could get back physically, just healthy, every time he’s been healthy he’s really played well.”

Edwards started strong, rolling in a 20-foot birdie putt at No. 2, then smoked the back nine with four birdies to match his best round of the year. Since tying for seventh at the Principal Charity Classic in early June, his best finish has been a tie for 35th at the U.S. Senior Open.

“It was a good, solid round. It was very important for me mentally to get that under your belt and see if you can do it again,” the 51-year-old Edwards said. “It’s been a long time since I played that well. That’s exciting.”

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