Despite shooting a couple of record-winning scores on the PGA Tour, Kenny Perry is a player who says he is not always comfortable when the numbers start getting low on the leader board. Even when he is the player posting the low numbers.
Perry has done that the past two rounds of the 30th Constellation Senior Players Championship at Fox Chapel Golf Club, making 13 birdies and two eagles and posting back-to-back 63s to set up a birdie showdown with Fred Couples today in the final round.
Couples, the 1992 Masters champion who began the round with a four-shot lead, is the 54-hole leader at 15-under 195 after making three birdies in the final five holes. But Perry is two shots back at 13-under 197 after a bogey-free 63 that put him in position for his first major championship of any kind.
"You've just got to go guns-ablaze, make birdies, put the pressure on them," Perry said.
Perry has done that for the past two rounds. He posted a 36-hole aggregate of 63-63 -- 126 is a tournament scoring record, breaking the mark of 128 (64-64) set by Jack Nicklaus in the third and fourth rounds in 1990.
"Is that what he shot?" Couples said afterward. "He's extremely long. I can see where if he starts driving it well, I think par is in the 60s for him. He's a great player and truly fun to play with."
Couples looked as if he would fail to take advantage of the soft conditions, making just two birdies and two bogeys in his first 13 holes. But he gave his round a lift when he birdied No. 14 from 20 feet and No. 15 from 25 feet to jump over Perry and back on top of the leader board.
"It seemed like I did it all in the last five holes to push ahead again," Couples said.
Couples, the 2011 champion, finished off his round with a birdie at No. 18 to give him a two-shot cushion.
John Huston, the first-round leader, bogeyed the final two holes to shoot 67 and is at 11-under 199. He is tied with Duffy Waldorf, who birdied his final two holes in a round of 66.
"Freddie is going to shoot a good round," Perry said. "If he shoots a good round, I'm going to have to catch him."
Couples had to complete seven holes of the rain-suspended second round in the morning and followed six consecutive pars with a birdie at the final hole to complete a course record-tying 62. That gave him a four-shot lead on Huston, who had three holes remaining and bogeyed the par-3 17th to shoot 67.
But in the afternoon, his only birdies came at the easiest holes on the course -- the par-5 second where he two-putted, and the 299-yard seventh, where he drove the green and two-putted from 15 feet.
When he misfired with a wedge from the fairway and three-putted from 20 feet for bogey at No. 10, Couples' four-shot advantage was gone. He dropped into a tie with Huston, who birdied the ninth hole to get to 12 under.
"I kind of stopped making birdies," Couples said. "What I didn't want to do was start to panic."
It was a long but productive day for Perry, who had to finish six holes from the rain-delayed second round in the morning. All he did when he returned at 8 a.m. was make three birdies and an eagle to complete a round of 63.
When he followed that with seven more birdies in the afternoon, Perry's tally for the day showed 10 birdies and an eagle in 24 holes.
"I just continued with the roll," Perry said. "I played nice and steady. I just plodded my way around the golf course and made some putts. It's been a great two rounds."
Perry won 14 times on the PGA Tour, with 11 coming in his 40s and five after he turned 47. But he has won just twice since joining the Champions Tour in 2010 -- a surprisingly low number for a player who has performed better as he got older.
Low numbers are nothing new for Perry. In two of his victories on the PGA Tour, he set tournament scoring records at the Bob Hope Desert Classic (25 under) and the Travelers Championship (22 under).
And he understands why the numbers keep getting lower at Fox Chapel.
"We're playing with the ball in hand," Perry said, referring to the lift-clean-and-place rule that has been in effect for every round. "You give a pro the ball, clean it, place it, you just see the scores go way down.
"This golf course was perfect on Tuesday; it would have been difficult to fit the balls around the hole. Now they're holding anything you can throw at them. That's why the scores are so good. People are throwing darts out there."
Gerry Dulac: firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @gerrydulac. First Published June 30, 2013 4:00 AM