Ryder Cup duo leads the way

AUGUSTA — Chad Campbell and Kenny Perry spent one of the best weeks of their careers together in September in Louisville, Ky.

The two grew tight as they shared their greatest golf achievement at Valhalla Country Club, helping the underdog United States team to a dominating win over the Europeans at the Ryder Cup. It was the Americans’ first win since 1999 and their largest margin of victory since 1981.

The two shared an entirely different experience Friday when they tied for the 36-hole lead at the Masters at 9 under. Former U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera is one shot back of the lead, while 2004 British Open champion Todd Hamilton trails by two.

“I’ve played a lot with Chad,” Perry said. “I’m looking forward to playing with Chad (today). Me and him, Ryder Cup teammates, we’ve played a lot of practice rounds together.”

Campbell and Perry didn’t play together during the Ryder Cup, but both shared in the tight bond forged by the Americans, who came together during the event despite not having an injured Tiger Woods. Even winning the Masters might not top the Ryder Cup victory for Perry, who prepared all year to compete in his home state in front of friends and family.

In essence, it was his major.

“The Ryder Cup, I can’t express to y’all how much that meant to me,” Perry said. “To me, that was the ultimate of anything I have ever, ever been a part of or accomplished, be it any of my 13 wins. None of those meant anything compared to what I experienced that week with my family, my dad.”

But his 85-year-old father has also always told Perry that he needed to win a green jacket.

Perry jumped into contention for that coveted piece of wardrobe with one of the best rounds of the day Friday.

He opened with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2, then parred nine straight holes before birdies on Nos. 12, 15 and 18 to close with a 5-under-par 67, which was bested Friday only by Anthony Kim, another Ryder Cup teammate.

“I understand what I’m trying to do, what I’m trying to accomplish,” Perry said. “Can I? I think I can. I really believe I can win this tournament. Will I? I don’t know.”

For first-round leader Campbell, Friday’s round offered up a number of chances to pull away from the field — much like he had in the first round — but he couldn’t maintain his spot at 11 under following a birdie on No. 10. He bogeyed the next two holes and eventually fell back to 8 under with a bogey on No. 17 before rallying for a birdie on the final hole.

“It’s always nice to end with a birdie and especially (Friday),” Campbell said. “Definitely a little bit unhappy with the way I played the back nine. ... But birdieing the last hole definitely gives me a good attitude going into (today).”

Both Campbell and Perry seem to have erased some spotty history at Augusta National Golf Club with their play through two rounds.

Campbell finished tied for third at the 2006 Masters, but he has missed the cut in three of his five tournaments. Perry missed the cut in five of his eight previous Masters appearances and has never finished better than 12th.

The only other major winner in the top 10 is 2003 U.S. Open winner Jim Furyk, who is tied for sixth at 4 under. Two-time Masters winner Phil Mickelson is tied for 11th at 3 under, and four-time Masters winner Tiger Woods is at 2 under.