Perry, Hoch shine at Merrill Lynch

Perry, Hoch shine at Merrill Lynch

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NAPLES, Fla. (AP) — Kenny Perry had eight birdies and an eagle and he and partner Scott Hoch finished with a 12-under 60 in the better-ball format at the second round of the Merrill Lynch Shootout on Saturday.

They hold a four-shot lead over J.B. Holmes and Boo Weekley at the Tiburon Golf Club.

“I don’t think I’ve ridden a horse that hard in a long time, and he just kept on galloping,” said Hoch, who admitted his left wrist has been bothering him.

“If I have to drag him across the finish line, I will,” Perry said.

The two teams were tied until Perry and Hoch birdied No. 16, Perry made an 8-footer for eagle on No. 17, and 10-footer for birdie on No. 18. Perry hit a 5-iron from 220 yards on No. 17, and a gap wedge from 115 yards on No. 18.

“It’s fun to watch Kenny play right now,” Hoch said. “He’s really playing well. I just feel fortunate enough to help him on a few holes.”

U.S. Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger and Rocco Mediate, the U.S. Open runner-up, tied the second-best round of the day with a 62, and are at 135.

Holmes and Weekley, who both played with Perry on the U.S. Ryder Cup team, made one birdie and four pars in the last five holes.

First-round leaders Nick Price and Jeff Sluman are third at 14-under 130 after a 66.

Price’s approach on No. 18 hit the flagstick, bounced back and rolled down to the front of the green.

Sunday’s format is a scramble. The 12 two-man teams played modified alternate shot on Friday.

Only one team has come back from a four-shot deficit in the tournament’s 19-year history. In 2003, Hank Kuehne and Jeff Sluman were four back of Perry and Hoch, and came back to win a three-way playoff.

“I don’t think the lead is ever safe enough in this format, the scramble format,” Perry said. “It’s really not.”

“We’ll have to play great, obviously,” Holmes said. “If Kenny and Scott go out there and play really well, then I don’t know if we’ll be able to do it then.”

Holmes and Weekley birdied four of their first six holes, then made birdies on Nos. 9, 10, 12 and 13 before leveling off for a 62.

“We still can’t get the putts to fall,” Weekley said. “If we get those putts to fall, we got them.”

Zach Johnson and Scott Verplank are fourth at 132. Tournament founder and host Greg Norman and Camilo Villegas, Jerry Kelly and Steve Stricker, and Stewart Cink and Fred Couples are 10 under.

Sunday’s winners split $730,000 from the $2.9 million purse.

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