• 79°

Perry holds lead at GMO

MILWAUKEE -- Kenny Perry never expected to be in the lead after three rounds at the Greater Milwaukee Open, especially not at only 8 under par.

The 6,759-yard Brown Deer Park course, one of the shortest on the PGA Tour, usually produces scores much lower than that after 54 holes.

But rain, winds and a change of a par-5 hole to par-4 with the removal of a large oak tree have made things tougher this year.

The fairways on the par-70 layout were soft, the pin placement was difficult and the notoriously thick rough is putting the U.S. Open to shame.

''I think it's just a combination of everything,'' Perry said. ''It's all showing. The scores are not very good.''

Perry, who finished in the top five each of the last three years at the GMO, grabbed the lead at 202 with a 4-under 66 Saturday.

Brenden Pappas, who carded a 63, was among a half-dozen golfers one stroke behind. Jay Don Blake (71), the 36-hole leader, also was at 203, along with Jerry Kelly (70), Heath Slocum (68), Steve Allan (68) and Patrick Sheehan (70).

Shigeki Maruyama (69), who won here two years ago, is two strokes back at 204, and six players are three shots off the pace.

''The course played harder the first two days, but nobody really did anything,'' Blake said. ''I feel fortunate that I'm still in it just a stroke back.''

The rain and wind that hampered play the first two days lightened up Saturday, and sun and light breezes seemed the perfect prescription for lower scores.

But the only golfer who made a big move was Pappas, who trimmed seven shots off the lead with his round, tied for the best at the tournament.

''It was an interesting day. I caught fire at the end of the (front) nine,'' said Pappas, whose best finish in 44 PGA Tour events was third at this year's Chrysler Classic of Tucson

''I thought with 5 or 6 under I would get within shouting distance of the lead,'' Pappas said. ''Mission accomplished.''

He and Jeff Gallagher (67) were the only two golfers out of 80 who shot bogey-free rounds.

Perry was having a mediocre round himself -- even-par through 10 holes -- before collecting four birdies to jump into the lead.

''I couldn't seem to get much going, but I just told myself to be patient, keep hanging in there,'' Perry said. ''My goal was to stay within two shots of the lead to have a shot Sunday.

''And the next thing you know, I made four birdies on the back nine, birdied three in a row on 15, 16 and 17,'' Perry said. ''I look up and I got the lead of the tournament. It's kind of crazy.''

Twenty-eight players are within five shots of the lead.

''It's going to take a 4 or 5 under for me tomorrow to win this thing because I think that with everybody bunched around like this, somebody's going to shoot a good round,'' Perry said.

Kelly said he bets that will be Perry, who won the Colonial and Memorial tournaments this year and has won four times in the 10 tournaments he's held a 54-hole lead.

''Kenny's going to make some birdies. He is definitely the man to beat,'' Kelly said. ''But if I would have done my job today, he would have been chasing me by at least three.''

Kelly returned to his old putter, which broke during Friday's rain delay, forcing him to use a replacement.

''I reattached the old putter last night,'' Kelly said. ''I know it's a bit off, but it's good enough. I just misread some putts.''

He wasn't the only one.

Divots: Blake is looking for his first win in 340 events dating to his victory in the 1991 Shearson Lehman Brothers Open. … Frank Lickliter holed out from 117 yards from the fairway on the 15th hole for an eagle. … Last year's champion, Jeff Sluman, didn't make it to the weekend, missing Friday's cut by six strokes. … Maruyama has bettered par in all 11 rounds at the GMO. He is 34 under par during that stretch.