Longtime Kentucky pals Russ Cochran and Kenny Perry have shared a massive gallery the first two rounds of the Senior PGA Championship. Now, they also share the lead.
"It's been a great couple of days," Cochran said after the pair each shot 5-under-66 on Friday. "He's one of my best friends. We had a good time out there."
Cochran and Perry had matching 69s in the opening round, they tied for the best score in the second round and are the only players to break 70 both rounds. They bonded in high school in Paducah, a three-hour drive from St. Louis. When they play together for the third straight day Saturday as the final twosome, the following is likely to grow.
"It's been pretty neat for me to play alongside him for the last two days and for both of us to play tremendous," Perry said. "We play a lot together."
The relationship is tight enough that Perry can joke that at dinners Cochran is "like a woman" with non-stop patter.
"He's got more stories. He's hilarious. He's so fun to be around, and I'm always the guy listening," Perry said. "He controls everything when we're out."
On the course, Cochran admires Perry's control, rhythm and power.
"The only thing I have to watch out for is Kenny hits it a long way," Cochran said. "When someone hammers it you want to jump up and swing a little harder than you should.
"So, I try not to do that."
Japan's Kiyoshi Murota was two strokes back after a 70. Jay Haas and Duffy Waldorf, tied for the lead after the first round, matched Loren Roberts at 4 under. Roberts had a 68, and Haas and Waldorf shot 72.
The 54-year-old Cochran tied for seventh in the 1992 PGA Championship at Bellerive won by Nick Price. Cochran was tied for second after two rounds before falling back with a 76.
The left-hander began play on the back nine and had five birdies in a span of six holes, peaking at 8 under before a bogey on No. 6. He was proudest of a birdie on perhaps the most challenging hole on the course, the 477-yard par 4 at No. 10 with a creek guarding the green, hitting a 5-iron approach to about 4 feet.
"I kind of felt like I hit the lottery a little bit," Cochran said. "Anytime you birdie that hole, you really feel like you've done something good."
The 52-year-old Perry had five birdies in a bogey-free round, helped by a handful of 300-plus drives. Though somewhat new to the Champions Tour, he has been impressed by the consistency.
"They don't back up out here," Perry said. "You've got to keep your foot on the gas pedal, keep making birdies."
Waldorf had a rocky round with six bogeys and five birdies, and joked when he was asked for a recap, "Oh great, my whole card we're going to go through." Like Cochran, Waldorf was a contender in the '92 PGA with a ninth-place finish.
Defending champion Roger Chapman just made the cut at 4 over after a 74.
"I haven't played very well this week," Chapman said. "So yeah, if I make the cut it's a bonus."
Bernard Langer made a 12-stroke improvement with a 67 and also was 4 over, rebounding from an opening round marred by consecutive triple bogeys.
Georgia club pro Sonny Skinner, who was a stroke back after the first round, shot 73. He was among 10 players, including Tom Watson, at 2 under.
Peter Jacobsen, who won the 2004 U.S. Senior Open at Bellerive, made a six-stroke improvement with a second-round 69 and is 2 over.
Notes: Perry is 18 under his last four rounds in the Senior PGA Championship, including a record 62 last year at Harbor Shores in Benton, Mich. ... Four players have had bogey-free rounds — Haas and Mark Wiebe on Thursday and Perry and Langer on Friday. ...There have been five eagles on the par-5 17th hole, one of them by Cochran in the opening round. ... Last year, Chapman was just the third player since 2000 to win the tournament after holding or sharing the lead after two rounds. ... Skinner is among three club pros at 2 under and five overall made the cut.