BETHESDA, MD. –- Tom Pernice sat at the front of the interview room this afternoon at the AT&T National, glumly recounting the birdies and bogeys from his tournament-record, 7-under-par, welcome-to-a-piece-of-the-second-round-lead 63.
“You seem a little laid back for a lead-tying round,” said a writer, speaking for those of us who turn cartwheels when we finish 18 without a triple-bogey on the card.
“Well, it’s only Friday,” Pernice replied.
He went on to say “I’m obviously very happy with the round,” but he needn’t have bothered. His four-word answer had perfectly expressed the guarded pessimism of the veteran touring pro. I just shot 63? Swell, but how often does that happen? What do you bet I come out tomorrow and shoot 74?
Pernice, who will turn 49 in September, has been playing the PGA Tour, on and off, since 1986. He has won two tournaments in that span. You think he hasn’t seen a few fabulous Fridays give way to Sucky Saturdays?
The comic Janeane Garofalo, puts it this way: “The glass is always half-empty. And cracked. And I just cut my lip on it. And chipped a tooth.”
But here’s the thing about the pros. They may talk like pessimists, but the good ones play as if all the game’s potholes are in the rear-view mirror.
Case in point: Tom Pernice. I was following his threesome yesterday afternoon when they started on Congressional’s tenth hole. Pernice promptly got in trouble. He bounced his approach shot into the water on eleven, took a penalty drop, and then needed three to get down for a double-bogey 6. He then hit his approach on 12 into a greenside bunker, at which point I turned to SI photographer Fred Vuich and said, “This looks like an 80 in the making.”
I’m not psychic. A glowering Pernice got up and down from the sand for his par and went on to fire a first-round 68. Now he shares the halfway lead with Jeff Overton, a kid half his age.
But you won’t see ol’ Tom spending his prize money until the final scores are tallied up. And that won’t happen until Sunday evening.
If he wins, trust me, he’ll smile.