Right from the start, Kenny Perry seemed energized even though he was absolutely exhausted. He birdied his first hole. Then, the second and third.
Not a bad start for someone who was jarred from his sleep when the fire alarm at his hotel rang at 3:30 a.m.
Perry shook off the fatigue and continued one of the best runs of his career, firing a 6-under 65 in the first round of the John Deere Classic on Thursday.
"It really made the day a lot more enjoyable," he said. "That was a good wake-up call. I was tired this morning."
The 47-year-old Perry, who won two events last month, is right behind Ken Duke and Charlie Wi in a tie for third. Woody Austin was in a group at 5-under, with 2007 Masters champion Zach Johnson five strokes behind the leaders.
Play was delayed briefly in the morning due to lightning in the area and again for 1 hour, 55 minutes in the afternoon. Perry was gone by then and, maybe, back in bed.
Unable to fall asleep after the fire alarm went off, a bleary-eyed Perry faced a different line of questions than those he's been hearing lately when he arrived at the range.
"I was just kind of dragging around on the range, and everybody looked at me, 'Did you stay here all night or what?'" Perry said.
He had enough energy to birdie his first three holes at TPC Deere Run, setting the tone for his round. He started on the par-5 No. 10 and drove a sand wedge to 18 feet, then hit a 9-iron within 11 feet on the par-4 11th before driving a 5-iron to 10 feet on the par-3 12th.
"Well, I've had runs," Perry said.
None like this, though.
Perry had a memorable four-tournament run in 2003, when he won the Colonial and Memorial on back-to-back weeks and tied for third at the U.S. Open before taking first at the Greater Milwaukee Open a month later. This one is approaching the two-month mark. It started when he lost a playoff to Ryuji Imada at the AT&T Classic in May and continued with victories at the Memorial and Buick Open last month. He usually plays well on those courses, and he'll be at another favorite stop next week when he returns to Brown Deer Park Golf Course in Milwaukee.
Yet for all the shots he's made lately, Perry also has absorbed his share of criticism for passing on majors.
Ineligible for the Masters, he decided not to go through 36-hole qualifying for the U.S. Open the day after winning the Memorial because he was tired. Then, he raised a few more eyebrows by choosing to honor his commitment at Milwaukee rather than go to the British Open, even though this seems like his best shot at a major.
After all, he's playing well and Tiger Woods is out with a knee injury.
The Kentucky native is more consumed with helping the U.S. win the Ryder Cup at Valhalla in Louisville, so he set a schedule that he thought would land him on the team.
"That's the only goal I've got," Perry said. "I'm not really focusing toward the majors or nothing. I'll get to play the PGA here in a few weeks and I'm looking forward to that."
While Perry kept his momentum going, Johnson hopes to build some this weekend.
He finished with a birdie on 18 and, more importantly, made it through the round pain-free after missing three weeks because of tendinitis in his left wrist. He also put himself in position to survive the cut after missing it last year.
"I'm hitting it pretty good," said Johnson, who grew up just over an hour away in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. "My driver's coming along; I switched drivers this week. I just have to start making more putts. It's not like I hit it to 6 feet every hole, but I gave myself chances. I just didn't make many."
Duke, an Arkansas native, and Wi are seeking their first Tour victories. Duke was the runner-up at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans last year while Wi tied for second at Milwaukee in 2007.
"Sure, I want to win, and I think everyone wants to win if they've never won before out here," Duke said. "I just keep preparing every week and working hard, and hopefully, I'm at the top someday."