Tom Kite is ready to get that winning feeling back again. To catch it, though, he’ll have come from behind against one of those darn kids on the Champions Tour.
Kite and Tom Pernice Jr. are set for a potential Sunday showdown at the 3M Championship. Pernice, who until this season at age 53 split his time between the PGA Tour and the Champions Tour and could have played in the Reno-Tahoe Open this week, is the leader at 13-under par after shooting a 7-under 65 on Saturday.
Kite also shot a 65 on Saturday at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine and is two strokes back for the tournament.
Jay Don Blake, Corey Pavin and Rod Spittle trail by three at 10 under.
At 63, Kite is vying to become the oldest winner in Champions Tour history. The World Golf Hall of Famer hasn’t won since 2008, a span of 115 starts. He has just two top 10 finishes this season.
“I’m looking forward to getting nervous again,” said Kite, winner of the 2004 3M Championship. “That means you’re doing something. If you’re out there just putzing around — make a putt and it means $200 difference — there’s nothing to get excited about.”
Both Pernice and Kite did plenty to jazz up their scorecards on a picturesque Saturday for golf. All but 20 players shot below par.
Pernice birdied four consecutive holes on the front nine, twice rolling in putts from more than 20 feet, to get to 10 under in a hurry.
He reached 12 under with a 10-footer on No. 12 then improbably avoided disaster two holes later.
After a poor tee shot through the rough, Pernice pulled a 6-iron into the hazard. A wedge attempt from there fell woefully short on the green, but he drained a 45-foot bogey putt and rebounded with a birdie on the next hole.
“To make that was a bonus,” Pernice said. “It rolled perfectly. It was really the only hiccup of the day, and one good putt saved it. I just had to continue on and try to give myself as many chances as I could.”
Through two rounds, Pernice, a first-timer at the 3M, has made birdies on seven of the eight par-5s.
“I put myself in position,” he said. “Now I just have to execute.”
As good as Kite’s round was Saturday, his best at the tournament in five years, he lamented missed birdie putts on five holes on the front nine that could have really put him in good position.
Still, he made back-to-back 2s with a 25-foot eagle putt on the driveable par-4 seventh and a 6-footer for birdie on No. 8.
“That jump-started my round,” Kite said. “I can’t recall the last time I’ve done that. It was nice, solid golf from then on.”
The same couldn’t be said for Friday’s crop of low-scorers.
First-round leader Mark Wiebe began the day with a one-shot lead at 8 under but could only manage a 1-under 71 Saturday and fell to a tie for sixth. He played the final 11 holes in 3-over-par. Kenny Perry, who trailed Wiebe by a stroke, shot the same score and trails Pernice by five in 10th place.
“The wind was just tricky enough out there to keep you on your toes,” said Bart Bryant, who started the day tied with Pernice at 6 under and shot a 69. “But most guys Like [Pernice] ripped up those first six holes. I honestly thought the scores would be a little lower than this.”
Watching others go low is a trend Kite has noticed a lot lately. And he wants to join the party.
“The scoreboard is bleeding,” he said. “A lot of red [numbers] out there. I’m battling a bunch of 50-year-olds. They keep coming out here, and I keep getting older and older and older. That’s the thing that’s tough right now. I’m cautiously optimistic.”