Day 1 review: Kentucky, Ohio State connections alive

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April 20, 2012
John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM

SAVANNAH, Ga. -- The Kentucky connection is finally established at the Liberty Mutual Insurance Legends of Golf. Now the focus is on winning.

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Russ Cochran and Kenny Perry, Bluegrass Staters with nearly 40 years of history, are teamed up at the Savannah Harbor Golf Resort and two shots out of the lead in Round 1, opening with 10-under 62 in the better-ball format.

Brad Bryant and Tom Purtzer lead after a round of 60, while the teams of Michael Allen and David Frost, Brad Faxon and Jeff Sluman and Bruce Fleisher and Tom Jenkins also shot 62s.

All of the teams at or near the lead talk about being friends and comfortable around each other on the course, but only the brother team of Bobby and Lanny Wadkins goes as far back as Cochran and Perry, who can rattle off their personal histories as easily as recounting the round they just played.

"Let's go back a little bit," Perry said. "I was raised in Franklin, Kentucky. Russ has always been in Paducah. When I became a freshman in high school, I moved to Paducah, so I was 14 or 13 years old at the time. ... He was 15, but Russ was the man. When he walked out there on the golf course, we were all paying attention.

"So I always looked up to Russ. Russ was the guy that kind of inspired me to become better."

Perry went on to have the better career on the PGA TOUR, winning 14 times to Cochran's one. On the Champions Tour they're enjoying equal success, with Cochran owning three wins in two-plus seasons to Perry's two wins in limited starts since joining the Tour late in 2010.

The two always wanted to team up, and friends and fans back home often asked when it would happen. When Perry's partner from last year's Liberty Mutual, Scott Hoch, had wrist surgery, the door opened to join forces with Cochran.

"I always wanted to have the Kentucky team going since we won the (NCAA men's basketball) national championship (last month)," Perry said. "We kind of got that flow going."

The flow on Friday at Savannah was a smooth 10 birdies, five on each side with no birdie-less drought lasting longer than two holes.

"Kenny, with his record, it frees me up a lot," Cochran said. "We played a lot of golf at 15, 16, 14 years old. This kind of made us feel we were young again.

"We had better play well because I don't think any of them out there is going to expect anything but good play."

Perry wants more than good play, he wants to avenge a tough defeat from last year's Liberty Mutual. In a playoff with Hoch against David Eger and Mark McNulty, he missed a par putt of less than two feet that would have extended the sudden death.

"It is burning in my gut a little bit," Perry said. "Doesn't mean we were still going to win, but I missed a gimme, basically. I definitely want to try to get back in that position."

With a partner who knows him better than anyone else on the Champions Tour.

IMPROVEMENT: When Joey Sindelar reached the fifth tee in Round 1, he was already ahead of the game from last year.

Sindelar had to withdraw after four holes in 2011 with back pain, leaving his former Ohio State teammate John Cook alone in the team format. Cook ended up playing the rest of the round at 6 under, posting 7 under for the day, but withdrew rather than play the last two days without his friend.

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Friday, there were no withdrawals, only a solid 63 as a team that featured the shot of the day, a holed 6-iron for eagle by Cook on the 18th hole from 178 yards out.

"An awesome way to end the day," Sindelar said.

Sindelar, who finished second with Cook at the Liberty Mutual in 2010, had this year's event circled on his calendar after last year's debacle -- only to have a little back pain creep up again before traveling to Savannah.

"Last week it started barking a little bit, I said 'I can't do this to John twice in a row,'" Sindelar said. "We've done every caretaking possibility to make sure I'm here this week. Whether I help or not, I'm here."

ODD COUPLE: There's the Kentucky connection and the Ohio State connection this week at Liberty Mutual, then there's ... Andy Bean and Chien Soon Lu?

One wouldn't think the union of a 65-year-old Floridian and a 52-year-old Taiwan native would be a natural, but in Savannah it has been.

The duo finished third in 2010, contended early in 2011 before finishing T24 and this week opened at 9 under, tied for sixth and three shots off the pace.

"Steak and sushi, I guess," said Bean when asked to describe the pairing. "You've got a guy that makes a lot of birdies. I watched him before I asked him to play, the first year we played. I said, 'who's the next guy on the list,' they said Lu, I said 'sign him up.'"

Lu finished T8 in March at the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic and was 27th in Charles Schwab Cup points last year. His highlight in Round 1 was a near double-eagle on the par-5 11th hole. He flew a 5-wood from 235 yards right over the cup, leaving a one-footer for eagle.

The team even overcame a bogey on the sixth hole; usually bogeys are the kiss of death in a team better-ball event.

POPULAR: Fred Couples and Jay Haas played alongside Bernhard Langer and Tom Lehman, attracting the biggest galleries in Round 1.

Couples and Haas shot 9 under, one better than the team of the last two Schwab Cup winners, catapulted by an eagle by Couples at the par-5 11th hole. Until that point, the team was just 3 under.

"We need that maybe on the (par 5) fourth hole tomorrow, we both had chances at eagle (but made birdie)," Couples said. "We were both pretty good, we weren't awesome. Seems like we left a shot or two out there, but we did some good things too."

NO EASY BIRD: Pros usually eat par 5s for lunch in this format, but the 595-yard par-5 13th hole played tough Friday. The hole had more pars than birdies, unlike the other par 5s at Savannah Harbor.

Only one of the teams that reached double figures under par in Round 1 made birdie on the hole, the team of Fleisher and Jenkins. The hole played dead into the wind, with the flag on the back left of a green some 70 yards in depth, with multiple tiers.

"It was a true three-shot hole that you don't see very often," Sluman said. "Into the wind and the pin position, just really made it a difficult hole."

RAPHAEL DIVISION: Des Smyth and Mark James are off to a good defense of their 2011 title, shooting 8 under in the first of two rounds in Raphael play.

Also at 8 under is the team of Roger Maltbie and Gary Koch. The NBC Sports broadcasters have won the event three times, most recently in 2009.

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