Perry playing for green jacket history

Kenny Perry thought nothing could top an emotional embrace with his 85-year-old father in their native Kentucky seven months ago as a Ryder Cup hero dressed in red, white and blue.

Gary Player tees off on the 18th hole of the Masters at the Augusta National Golf Club on Friday for the final time. He missed the cut.

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Kenny Perry thought nothing could top an emotional embrace with his 85-year-old father in their native Kentucky seven months ago as a Ryder Cup hero dressed in red, white and blue.

How about the oldest man to slip on a green jacket?

On a blustery Friday at the Masters that featured a record number of birdies and eagles, the 48-year-old Perry grabbed a share of the 36-hole lead with Chad Campbell by playing what he called one of the best rounds of his career.

No one as old as Perry has ever won a major championship.

Perry has never so much as finished in the top 10 at Augusta National.

“I’ve had a great career, and I’d be very satisfied if it ended today,” he said. “The Ryder Cup, I can’t express to y’all how much that meant to me. That was the ultimate of anything I have ever, ever been a part of or accomplished, be it any of my 13 wins.

“But Dad has always said, ’You need to win that green jacket.’ He always calls me and tells me.”

Now, even Perry is starting to believe.

He is equipped with a new driver that makes him feel he can hit any fairway. He has a 64-degree sand wedge that has taken the edge off the scary chips around the green. He is confident over every putt.

“Obviously last year, he showed what he can do when he gets on a roll,” Campbell said. “He’s definitely going to be tough to beat.”

Augusta National was tougher than the opening round, but even with tougher pins and gusts that swirled through Amen Corner and lasted deep into the afternoon, the fireworks were just as endless.

Campbell got off to another solid start and finished with a 25-foot birdie for a 70, sharing the lead with Perry at 9-under 135.

They had a one-shot lead over former U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera, who had a 68.

Anthony Kim set a tournament record with 11 birdies on his way to a 65 — 10 shots better than his first round — to get into contention in his Masters debut. Phil Mickelson was on the verge of missing the cut until he played his last seven holes in 5 under for a 68. Sergio Garcia shot a 67, the first time he has broken par at the Masters in five years.

Calgary’s Stephen Ames shot a 68 to move into a tie for 11th place with a two-round total of 3-under 141.

Mike Weir of Bright’s Grove, Ont., fell to a 28th-place tie at 143 after shooting 75.

There were a record 17 eagles in the second round, breaking by two the mark set in 1997.

Tiger Woods couldn’t join this parade of birdies and eagles for the second straight day. All three of his birdies were followed by bogeys, and his 72 left him seven shots behind. Woods has never won a major when trailing by more than six shots after 36 holes.

“It was just tough all round,” said Woods, who headed straight for the practice range.

Maybe for him, but not for the 25 players who managed to break par.

It was tough on Gary Player, Fuzzy Zoeller and Greg Norman for other reasons.

Player completed his remarkable career at the Masters by competing for the 52nd and final time. The 73-year-old South African, who won three green jackets, knelt before reaching the 18th green and clasped his hands to thank the gallery.

Zoeller also is calling it quits after an Augusta National career remembered for winning the first sudden-death playoff at the Masters in 1979, and for his racially insensitive comments after Woods won in 1997.

The return of the Shark lasted only two days. Norman shot 40 on the back nine for a 77 to miss the cut by two shots in what likely will be his last time playing the Masters, 22 years without ever getting upstairs to the champions’ locker room.

Is there room up there for a 48-year-old from Kentucky?

“Everything is a bonus now, it really is,” Perry said. “I’m just going through each and every day enjoying life a little bit. I think I can win. I’m not going out there very casually. I’m burning inside, wanting to kick everybody’s butt.”

Jack Nicklaus was 46 when he became the oldest Masters champion in 1986. The oldest to win any major was Julius Boros, who was 48 when he won the 1968 PGA Championship. Perry is about four months older.

Despite his paltry record at the Masters — five missed cuts in eight appearances — a victory would not be all that surprising. Perry won earlier this year in Phoenix and is No. 11 in the world ranking.

“That was probably one of the greatest rounds I’ve ever played,” said Perry said, who made it through Friday without a single bogey. “I just didn’t have any nerves. I was so comfortable out there today. I don’t know how to explain it. But it was just easy.”

It was easy enough for Todd Hamilton, the former British Open champion who has had only two top 10s since his victory at Royal Troon five years ago. In his final year of eligibility at the Masters, he had a 70 and was in fourth place at 6-under 138.

Kim was in the group at 4-under 140 that included Garcia and Jim Furyk (74), while Mickelson’s late rally put him in a tie for 11th at 141 along with Geoff Ogilvy (70), Steve Stricker (69) and 46-year-old Vijay Singh (70).

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