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Len Ziehm On Golf

ENCOMPASS: Perry couldn’t keep up U.S. Open momentum in Round 1

Kenny Perry won the Champions Tour’s Charles Schwab Cup last year and was the circuit’s only player in action last week when he tied for 28th in the U.S. Open at Pinehurst, N.C.

At 53 he was the oldest player to make the cut at the Open, but he wasn’t so good in his return to the 50-and-over set on Friday. He opened with a bogey, added two more (one on a par-5) and settled for a 1-under-par 71 in the Encompass Championship at North Shore Country Club in Glenview. After finishing tied for third last year, he’s far down the leaderboard after Day 1.

Perry has been asked about the Open frequently since arriving here.

“In most U.S. Opens I feel pretty stressed out,’’ he said. “You’ve got 25-yard fairways, six-inch rough. Last week you just had the scrub off the fairways and you could actually play out of it. I was excited. I didn’t feel claustrophobic out there and just had a wonderful week.’’

Along the way he holed a 4-iron from 220 yards, a swing that Perry called “the shot of my life.’’

Perry’s start Friday was in keeping with his slower start on the Champions Tour this season. He has but one victory and stands fourth in the Schwab Cup point race. Front-runner Tom Lehman thinks Perry is adjusting to playing on both the PGA and Champions circuits.

“You learn quickly that it’s tough to accomplish much on either tour if you do that,’’ said Lehman. “You’re in no-man’s land. Guys figure out that you’re better off committing to one tour or the other, and Kenny’s done that. He’s committed out here, and he’s playing great. I’m not surprised ever when anybody from (the Champions Tour) steps over to the other (PGA) tour and plays well. I expect it.

Here and there

Most of the 81 touring pros were under par, but not defending champion Craig Stadler. He shot a 1-over-73. Last year his winning score was 13-under for the 54 holes.

Bernhard Langer, winner of the Schwab Cup five times in seven years and the current leader in the point standings for 2014, didn’t start so well, either. He shot 71 in his return to the tour after going on a fishing trip to Alaska with his two sons and brother last week.

The locals had a good day. Hinsdale’s Jeff Sluman, who tied for third last year, shot 67 and Lake Forest’s Chip Beck, who plays the circuit on only a limited basis, had 70.

The Encompass wasn’t the only big game in town on Friday. The Western Golf Assn. wrapped up its Western Junior Championship at Flossmoor Country Club with Northbrook’s Nick Hardy, a University of Illinois recruit, finishing in a tie for second behind champion KK Limbhasut, a native of Thailand who now lives in Loma Linda, Calif..