Kenny Perry, runner-up to Mark Brooks in the 1996 PGA Championship, shot a 6-under-par 64 for a share of the first-round lead yesterday in the John Deere Classic with Robert Damron and Joe Ogilvie.

David Peoples, Mac O'Grady, Katsumasa Miyamoto, Brett Quigley and Briny Baird shot 65s over the 6,762-yard Oakwood Country Club course in Coal Valley, Ill. Ten players, headed by tour veteran Scott Verplank and 1997 champion David Toms, were at 66, and 16 players were grouped at 67, including three-time champion D.A. Weibring (1979, '91 and '95) and two-time champ David Frost (1992, '93).

"I love it here," said Perry, whose round included five birdies and an eagle at the par-5 10th hole, where he hit a 2-iron within 12 feet and knocked in the putt. "I don't know what it is. I'm just very comfortable on this golf course, and I had a lot of good feelings coming into this week."

Damron, who found out last week he has mononucleosis, was 4 under on his incoming nine with birdies at Nos. 1, 5, 8 and 9. He is playing with a new set of irons acquired during the Western Open.

"Since the beginning of the year, my iron play has been terrible, and I've not been giving myself any chances for birdie," said Damron, in his third full season on tour. "And since the summer started, I was starting to swing better and hit better, but I was fighting -- my energy was so bad."

SENIORS: Americans David Oakley and Ray Carrasco, a teaching pro, shared the first-round lead in the Senior British Open after firing 2-under-par 70s in Portrush, Northern Ireland.

Tied for second at 71 were former Ryder Cup players Antonio Garrido of Spain and Guy Hunt of England, and another Englishman, John Morgan. . . .

Back in the United States, Tom Watson said he will make his Senior PGA Tour debut at the Comfort Classic in Indianapolis on Sept. 8, four days after he celebrates his 50th birthday and becomes eligible.

Watson hasn't won in 12 tournaments this year and is 146th on the PGA Tour money list with $141,410.