Tom Lehman won’t be a three-peat winner of the Charles Schwab Cup, but is proving quite the soothsayer for the possible 2013 winner.
“If I had to pick one guy who could (win), I’d say Kenny Perry may do it,” Lehman said in one of the terrific Champions Tour “Ultimate Clubhouse” commercials that have aired all year.
Good call. Perry is more than a “may” at the moment -- he’s in the driver’s seat.
The Kentuckian leads the Schwab Cup race with just two events remaining, this week’s AT&T Championship at TPC San Antonio and next week’s finale, the double-points Charles Schwab Cup Championship at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco. Perry’s 2,760 points lead 2010 winner Bernhard Langer by 494 and David Frost by 789, and those three are the only ones in the running for the $1 million annuity.
“I’ve got a nice lead in the Schwab Cup now but I still need to keep my foot on the gas because anything can happen,” Perry said. “I tell all the other guys to keep Bernhard Langer and David Frost off of me. Be my blockers. I just need to play well. If I do that, it will take care of itself. Whatever happens, it’s been a great year for me.”
When Lehman made that prediction (those commercials were recorded in January in Hawaii at the season-opening Mitsubishi Electric Championship), his only qualifier was to add “if he plays a lot.”
In 2011, his first full year on the Champions Tour, Perry played in fewer than half the events – 10 – and finished 15th in the Schwab Cup race. In 2012, he made 18 starts and finished 11th in points.
This year, Perry has played in just 18 of 24 events so far (only Fred Couples has played fewer among the top 8 in the Schwab Cup standings), but he’s been consistently great, especially when the spotlight has burned brightest.
In four of the five double-points Champions Tour majors, Perry went T2-T15-win-win, with back-to-back titles at the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship and the U.S. Senior Open Championship. Perry skipped the Senior Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.
Seven other players have two wins this season, but no one else nabbed multiple majors. That’s how Perry surged to the top of the points, where he’s been ever since winning the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS at Fox Chapel.
With that in mind, and one more double-points event remaining, Perry knows there’s still volatility.
“Over the last few years, it’s always come down to the last tournament and sometimes the last putt. With 880 points available for first place at TPC Harding Park, lots of things can still happen,” Perry said. “If Bernhard Langer or David Frost get hot over the next few weeks and I don’t get any points, they can still catch me. It’s definitely not over.”
It’s not over, but the finish line is in sight for Perry if he continues playing his best in the biggest events. Last year’s Schwab Cup champion looks like he knows what he was talking about.