Fate, bunker shots or whatever, things just seem to even out in golf, or so the players hope, which probably explains what happened Friday at Riviera.
Kenny Perry has spent about three years building a golf course back home in Franklin, Ky., so he spent Friday leveling one in Southern California.
“I don’t know what to say,” Perry said.
Riviera remained speechless after absorbing a course-record-tying 62, nine under par, which put Perry into the lead at the midway point of the Nissan L.A. Open.
With a 10-under par 136 and a one-shot lead over Corey Pavin after 36 holes, Perry clearly has some momentum built.
Three weeks ago, he finished third at Pebble Beach. Last week, he won the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. On Friday, there he was at Riviera, tearing up the place.
“It’s kind of hard to believe,” he said. “I’m playing so well, it’s just incredible. I really felt I was going to make every putt I stood over.”
He made most of them. He started flying with an eagle on par-five No. 1 when he reached the green in two and rolled in a 20-footer.
“I was playing four feet of break, the thing came in the side door breakin’ sideways and I thought, ‘Hey, that’s pretty nice,’ ” he said.
Pretty nice? Four under par after three holes, Perry shot 30 on the front. He birdied four of the first six holes on the back, but shot only par on the last three and slumped in with his 62.
The only others who have shot as low are Larry Mize in 1985 and Fred Couples in 1990.
Perry thinks his recognition factor will experience a surge because of his recent success, which probably is true since it’s not all that high right now.
And with 36 holes to go, there’s a very real chance for more changes the rest of the way.
Pavin, last year’s winner, is a shot back after shooting a 66, the same as Bob Estes, who is two shots behind at 134. Craig Stadler is in fourth place at 135.
Three are tied for fifth at 136--John Daly, Scott Simpson and Jay Don Blake.
Pavin has started slowly this year and didn’t want to say he has turned things around. But he was able to joke about how he would like to be known from here on out.
“I see the headlines now--'Long-hitting Pavin'--come on guys,” Pavin joked.
He wasn’t sure, however, what score is going to be good enough to win Sunday.
“I just hope it’s mine,” he said.
Estes had trouble driving straight but birdied five of the first seven holes, three of them in succession after hitting seven-iron shots within five feet.
And he said there are reasons he made those putts.
Since late last year, Estes has gone from a regular grip to an oversized grip and back to a regular grip. He has changed his stance. He has gone from a double-overlap grip to a single-overlap grip. And he has changed putters.
Other than that, Estes putts just as he used to.
“It seems to be working,” he said. “My caddie told me I’m putting like Nick Price.”
Now if he could just drive like Daly.
Actually, Daly’s drives were only fair, but he rescued his round with four consecutive par-saving putts on the front.
Daly one-putted the first six holes, rolling in birdie putts of 10 feet on No. 1, the only par five on the front, and 20 feet on No. 6. He also birdied No. 11, one of the two par fives on the back.
The greens were about as slow as a golf cart with four flat tires, and Daly said he missed a chance to score better.
“I left a ton of putts short,” Daly said. “It’s hard to get yourself to hit them that hard.”
Four shots off the lead heading into the weekend ought to be an encouraging position for Daly, who missed the cut in his last two PGA Tour events.
Maybe he will even be in contention Sunday.
“I hope I’m feeling confident,” he said. “It’s hard to say. I have to get there first.”
Ben Crenshaw might have been closer, but he took a two-shot penalty when he mistakenly hit a ball that wasn’t his while playing the 11th, where he had an eight.
* IN THE HUNT
Corey Pavin, the defending champion, begins to put his game in order with a five-under-par 66 that has him one stroke off the lead. C6
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
Kenny Perry: 70-62--132
Corey Pavin: 67-66--133
Bob Estes: 68-66--134
Craig Stadler: 67-68--135
John Daly: 67-69--136
Jay Don Blake: 69-67--136
Scott Simpson: 70-66--136
Four tied at 137
Fred Couples: 69-69--138
Tom Kite: 71-67--138
Lanny Wadkins: 67-72--139
Peter Jacobsen: 69-71--140
Ben Crenshaw: 71-71--142
Lee Janzen: 77-66--143
Davis Love III: 69-74--143
MISSED THE CUT
Phil Mickelson: 71-74--145
Paul Azinger: 72-74--146