Perry strides ahead after equalling course best

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Annika Sorenstam was still fresh on everyone's mind when Kenny Perry fired birdies at six of his first nine holes en route to a course record-tying nine-under-par 61 and an eight-stroke lead after the third round of the Colonial.

Sorenstam put her name in sports lore by becoming the second woman in history and first since 1945 to play in a PGA Tour event. But the bubble burst on Friday, when she shot 74 and missed the cut by four strokes. With the Swede out of the event, thousands of fans and hundreds of journalists disappeared before Saturday's third round got under way

"It was nice and quiet," Justin Leonard said. "There was no traffic getting in here at 7am. This is a little more what I'm used to." It was as if the tournament had already ended. It may have done after Perry's first nine holes.

A 17-year veteran seeking his fifth career title, Perry shared the 36-hole lead with his good friend Dan Forsman, but he opened and closed the front nine with three successive birdies to build a five-stroke lead.

With a 29 on the front side, Perry matched the second-best nine-hole total in tournament history, a stroke off the mark Wayne Levi set in 1993.

His 61 for the round tied Keith Clearwater, Lee Janzen, in 1993, and Greg Kraft (1999) for the lowest ever at the Colonial. At 17-under 193, he also broke by a shot the 54-hole tournament mark held by Scott Simpson and David Ogrin (1997).

It could have been even better. After birdies at the 11th and 14th, the chance of a 59 began to go through his mind. "I'm thinking, if I can make this putt I've got a very good shot at shooting 59," Perry said of a failed birdie attempt at the 15th. "Then, I hit it close on 16 and missed it. After I missed that little putt on 16, I knew it was virtually impossible."

Perry left five birdie putts within a foot of the hole, missing from distances of eight-and-a-half, 13 and 17 feet over the last four holes alone. But he missed only two greens, two fairways and needed just 25 putts. Perry is eight shots clear of the first-round leader, Rory Sabbatini of South Africa, who stood second at nine-under 201.

No one has ever blown a 54-hole lead of more than seven strokes at the Colonial.

Jim Furyk is third at eight-under 202, a stroke ahead of Hal Sutton, Stewart Cink and Jeff Sluman. Sutton enjoyed a hole-in-one at the 16th on his way to a 65, matching the second-best round of the day.

* Catriona Matthew put together another impressive round to take a two-stroke lead after 54 holes of the LPGA Corning Classic in New York.

Matthew fired a five-under-par 67 to put some room between her and playing partner, Lorie Kane. They began their third round over the Corning Country Club course tied for the lead.

Scotland's Matthew, on 17-under-par 199 on Saturday night, was well placed for her second career title, having also won at the 2001 Hawaiian Ladies Open. On Friday, she shot a 64, matching Soo Yun Kang and the first-round leader, Karen Stupples, for the best round of the tournament.

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