Tom Pernice Jr. off to strong start at Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic

Tom Pernice Jr. off to strong start at Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic

SAUCIER, Miss. (AP) – Tom Pernice Jr. took full advantage of soggy conditions in the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic.

In his first Champions Tour event this year, Pernice was 7 under through 12 holes before play was suspended Friday because of darkness. The 52-year-old Pernice has played eight PGA Tour events this season.

“A perfect day to play golf,'' Pernice said. “Not much wind. Obviously, the greens were holding. The greens aren't real fast this year so you can be really aggressive. I played really solid.''

Chien Soon Lu and David Eger – who won the inaugural tournament in 2010 – were a stroke back. Lu played 16 holes, and Eger completed 15.

Only a handful of players completed their rounds because the start was delayed more than four hours after more than 9 inches of rain fell on Fallen Oak in 36 hours.

Fred Couples was 3 under through 12 holes. Defending champion Tom Lehman was even par through 11.

The first round will resume Saturday morning in the 54-hole event.

About 4 inches of rain drenched the course Thursday, forcing the cancellation of the pro-am. The opening round was scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Friday, but was pushed back to 2:30 p.m.

The course was closed to the public Friday, making for an even quieter round of golf than usual. Tournament director Steve Nieman made the rare decision after his truck became stuck in the mud while surveying the public parking lot early Friday morning.

Nieman said one-day tournament passes are good for any day during the tournament, so there would be no refunds. He expects the tournament to recoup most lost income over the next two days, when nearly ideal weather is expected.

Willis Young, who has provided weather support for the PGA Tour the past 16 years, said the amount of rain was in the “top five'' in tournaments he had worked.

“Really, it's amazing that we're playing golf,'' Young said.

Not only was golf played, but it was played quite well thanks to the nearly ideal conditions.

Peter Senior, Jim Carter, Bobby Clampett and John Huston were 5 under. Senior and Carter finished, while Clampett played 17 holes and Huston 14.

Players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairways because of the wet conditions, but Pernice said it wasn't needed because the course was in such good shape. Most of the area has a sandy soil that drains fairly well.

“I feel good about going out tomorrow morning,'' Pernice said. “The greens will be mowed again and they'll be even a little better. It's supposed to be beautiful again tomorrow and on Sunday.''

Follow David Brandt on Twitter: (at)davidbrandtAP

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