SAN FRANCISCO – The exchange of texts Sunday night after the Charles Schwab Cup Championship probably read something like this:
Congratulations. Next year, I want to be Kenny Perry.
Golf has its mutual admiration societies and at TPC Harding Park, Kenny Perry’s best friend was Fred Couples, who turned in a virtuoso performance time perfectly for both him and for Perry.
Perry won the Charles Schwab Cup when Couples ran interference by cruising to a 6-stroke victory at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship.
Couples shot a final-round 69 for a 17-under 267 total. Perry shot 68 -- 274 and moved all the way up to a tie for fifth but, without Couples, it might not have been quite enough to deny Bernhard Langer. At the very least, without Couples out in front by such a wide margin, the dynamic would have been entirely different down the stretch.
Only a victory would have been good enough for Langer. He soared all the way into the tie for second with Peter Senior and Mark O’Meara. Close but not close enough and Perry captured the $1 million annuity awarded the winner of the season-long Charles Schwab Cup competition.
Perry finished with 3,273 points, 411 more than Langer, who won $500,000 as runner-up. Couples was third and won $300,000, followed by David Frost ($200,000) and Duffy Waldorf ($100,000).
“Starting the week I said it was 29 against one, and like I was saying, I was trying to be the mayor of San Francisco trying to shake all the players' hands,” Perry said. “I just said, I need one of you to get hot this week and keep (Langer) off of me.
“And it was so funny he played right in front of me today, Bernhard did, and I came to the ninth hole, which I knocked a driver and 5-wood on the green, and I looked over at the board and he shot 4- under on the front nine and I'm thinking this guy just won't go away.”
Then Perry birdied the ninth and 10th holes.
“I'm thinking, well, you know what?” he said. “You just need to do this on your own.”
Then he made a couple of mistakes. “I didn’t do enough to get it done so thank you Fred Couples,” he said.
“We'll cherish this year because, you know what, not too many people have one of these,” Perry said, looking at the Charles Schwab Cup. “To be able to say that I did it once in my career is a dream come true to finally, here at 53, to achieve something pretty significant in my golfing career.”
“I've had the lead since June or whenever and every week we talk about the Charles Schwab Cup and I'm finally glad it's over, I don't want to talk about it no more, I got it.”
The victory was the first for Couples since last year’s Senior British Open. His attention was firmly on O’Meara, his playing partner who started the final round 5 shots behind.
“I tried to stay as far ahead of Mark as best I could and then I didn't see anyone else getting 14-, 15- under,” Couples said. “It’s great to win … the Senior British seems like four years ago. But it is nice to win a tournament and to play really well. That's what I felt I did this week.”
Couples is contemplating playing more golf next year on the Champions Tour. At Harding Park, that thought was validated.
“I have 60 days to lose all my momentum before Hualalai,” said Couples, allowing himself a smile. “I enjoy playing well. I really like to play golf to the fullest that I can play it, and a week like today, leading up to this, the three rounds and then today, I played very well.
“I feel like this year is certainly not a waste, but it was a waste in not winning any events until this. I felt like possibly with some better practice I could have won three times easily, but in those tournaments that I played well in, I hit the ball pretty well and I putted well, but this week was totally different. I didn't miss many shots and I got a big lead and kept it.”
The difference, if there is to be a difference next year, is to remain healthy and practice enough to be ready because Couples has already identified his goal for 2014.
“I want to be Kenny Perry,” he said. “I want to win the Schwab Cup and I think that’s do-able if I play a lot and play well.”
Langer, needing a victory to have any chance to win the Charles Schwab Cup, moved steadily up the leaderboard and when O’Meara made bogey on the 18th hole, Langer moved into second. Except for Couples’ dominating performance, there might have been a playoff.
“Exactly,” said Couples, allowing himself another victory smile. “If I shoot 75, they would be out there (for a playoff) right now and Kenny would be sweating like crazy.”
And that’s why Perry had this message for Couples when it was over: “Way to go and way to get a big lead and make life easier for me.”