Perry shot a 6-under-par 64 at the Omaha Country Club on Saturday and, along with Fred Funk, will go into the final round of the U.S. Senior Open two shots behind leader Michael Allen.
Perry, who was 10 shots off the lead after a 73 on Friday, figured he would need to halve the deficit to have a chance Sunday. He posted nines of 32-32 and got some help from Allen, who went from 63 on Friday to 72 on Saturday and was at 8-under 202.
“I was in that rocking-chair seat,” Perry said. “I was in a very aggressive mode, where if I go out and play great today, I’ve got a chance to move my way up the leaderboard. Or if I don’t play any good, it’s OK, too.”
It looked as if Funk, the 2009 champion, might fade after taking a double-bogey on No. 10. But he birdied the last two holes for a 67, rolling in a 35-foot putt on the 18th. Suddenly, he was right back in the tournament, too.
“To make that putt on 18 was a bonus,” Funk said. “Having that good finish was great. At least it kept me in the game.”
Allen, a journeyman on the regular tour and a four-time winner since joining the senior tour in 2009, started with a 5-shot lead — the largest after 36 holes in the tournament’s 34-year history.
He went out in even-par 35, but he bogeyed three holes on the back nine and came in with a 37.
“Obviously, yesterday was a lot of fun. I made a lot of birdies and very few bogeys,” Allen said. “Today I had a few more bads than goods, but it’s fun. It’s nice to be in the lead. If you’d have given me a 2-shot lead to start the week, I would have been pretty thrilled to have it, I’m sure.”
The 54-year-old Allen has been playing through neck pain. He rubbed the right side of his neck Saturday as he walked up the last two fairways. He saved par on the 17th but bogeyed No. 18 to set the stage for a dramatic finish.
“For a guy who’s never had an injury, this has kind of been interesting for me, to see what guys have to go through,” Allen said. “I’m trying to get through it. It’s still tight.”
Rocco Mediate, who was Allen’s closest pursuer at the tournament’s midway point, had bogeys on four of five holes in the middle of his round and sat five shots off the lead after a 72.
Perry, who won the Senior Players Championship two weeks ago, matched Corey Pavin for low round of the day.
“I birdied the first two holes right out of the gate, kind of set the tone for the day, and it was foot to the floor,” Perry said. “I was trying to birdie every hole out there, and I had so many great opportunities. I mean, I played a phenomenal day. It could have been 59.”
Perry started his push with an eagle on the par-5 sixth hole, leaving himself only 155 yards to the hole after his drive. From there he hit a 9-iron to tap-in range.
He was the only golfer to birdie the 501-yard, par-4 10th. He drove into the rough but recovered with a pitching wedge to 20 feet. He birdied the par-3 16th and the 297-yard, par-4 17th to get to six under for the tournament.
Perry hopes the heavy lifting was done Saturday and that he won’t have to go as low Sunday.
“But if you do shoot that round,” he said, “you’ll win the tournament.”
Pavin, who tied for second last year, bounced back from a 73 and was lurking two shots behind Perry and Funk and four behind Allen.
“When the USGA sets up the golf course, funny things can happen on Sunday,” Pavin said. “I’ve seen it time and time again. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t where guys come back. Probably going to need a little help, but we’ll see what happens out there with how Michael plays.”