<
>

Perry firing on all cylinders at Travelers

CROMWELL, Conn. -- If there was a Masters hangover for Kenny Perry, it's now officially over.

The 48-year-old who lost the year's first major in a playoff to Angel Cabrera opened the 2009 Travelers Championship by tying the course record with a 9-under-par 61, good enough for a 2-shot lead Thursday.

Paul Goydos and Charles Warren carded 63s to tie for second and were among 105 players to shoot in the 60s on the par-70 track.

Since his runner-up finish at Augusta, Perry hasn't recorded a top-20 in any event, with a T-22 at the Players Championship his best showing in that span.

"It's definitely the best I've played since the Masters," Perry said of his 61, which tied a career best with his third round at the 2003 Colonial, also on a par-70 course. "I've been struggling. My iron game's been off. My putting's been pitiful. Today, it all kind of came together."

Perry's wife, Sandy, who was walking the grounds at the TPC at River Highlands course, was pleased to see her husband finish his round strong.

"Every week, it's getting better," she said. "He closed well today, so I've been looking forward to seeing that. It's what he's had a little bit of trouble with … the last couple holes, just with his concentration. So he's doing great."

Although Perry played consistent golf down the stretch by making par on his last three holes, it was his start that got him going. His round was nearly sidetracked before it really got going.

On the par-4 second hole, Perry hooked his tee shot into the left fairway bunker and had to chip out sideways. His third shot reached the green, where he sank a 20-foot putt for par that jump-started his day.

Perry went on to birdie seven of the next eight holes en route to matching the course-record 61s posted by Kirk Triplett in 2000, Phil Mickelson and Scott Verplank in 2001, and Brad Faxon in 2005.

After making the turn in 29, Perry was thinking about shooting 59 with a birdie at the par-4 10th that got him to 7 under.

"I was looking for that magical number," Perry said. "I thought I could do it today. It was definitely in the back of my head. I was definitely trying to get it done. I'm very happy with the round. Whenever you can birdie half the holes, it's pretty amazing."

In his career, Perry's best finish at the Travelers Championship is a T-4 in 2003, but he does own seven top-10 finishes at the event.

If he were to pick up his 14th career victory Sunday, Perry would inch closer to his goal of 20 career PGA Tour wins that seemed unrealistic not that long ago for a player who is nearly eligible for the Champions Tour. In the past 13 months, Perry owns four wins and a Ryder Cup victory. But he still has that itch for finishing on top.

"I've just been trying to get back in that winner's circle again," Perry said.

Kevin Maguire is the golf editor of ESPN.com. He can be reached at Kevin.Maguire@espn3.com.