PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS INSIDER
Insider: Perry's win at Fox Chapel was just the start of a great streak
June 24, 2014
By Vartan Kupelian, PGATOUR.COM
- Kenny Perry ranks fourth in the Schwab Cup standings. (Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)
PITTSBURGH - One by one, Kenny Perry keeps crossing things off his checklist.
Win a major, any major. Done. In triplicate.
Claim a Charles Schwab Cup. Check.
Find a way to get into the PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in his native Kentucky. With friends in high places, that wasn’t a problem, either.
What pulls all those things together is what happened a year ago this week at the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship at Fox Chapel Golf Club.
After years of waiting, trying and being disappointed, Perry finally made a breakthrough by winning the Senior PLAYERS with a blistering attack on par. The victory came one week after he let the Senior PGA Championship slip through his fingers but he atoned for that emphatically at Fox Chapel.
On the distinguished Seth Raynor design, the dominos started to fall for Perry. He won his second senior major two weeks later at the U.S. Senior Open. By gaining double points for those two major victories, Perry built a huge lead in the Charles Schwab Cup race. He arrived at the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco with a large lead. It held up when Fred Couples won the title and Perry did what he needed to do by finishing in a tie for fifth.
The Senior PLAYERS victory earned Perry an invite to the PGA TOUR’s PLAYERS Championship. It was a nice bonus. But Perry made it clear to everybody what was on top of his priority list for 2014. He wanted a place in the field at the PGA Championship. He had a chance to earn it at the Senior PGA Championship at Harbor Shores earlier this season. He didn’t manage to win a fourth straight senior major. It didn’t matter. Shortly after the end of the tournament, the PGA of America extended Perry an invitation to play at Valhalla.
“The summer of 2013 was incredible,” Perry said. “It was finally a dream come true. To have major championships at your fingertips and to lose them and to now finally have a major title attached to your name, it's been pretty special for me.”
Perry added a third straight major championship when he won the Regions Tradition in May. The streak ended in Harbor Shores but the dream continues knowing that he’ll play in Valhalla, site of perhaps his greatest disappointment. In front of a home crowd, the native of Elizabethtown, Kentucky, lost a playoff to Mark Brooks for the 1996 PGA Championship.
But that’s history. What’s current is Perry’s state of mind and, clearly, it’s all good whether he’s looking back or looking ahead.
“I was fortunate that I've been healthy,” he said. “With 14 wins on the regular TOUR, I played 27 or 28 years out there, and then when I turned 50 in 2010 - I'm still fully exempt on the regular TOUR. This is my last full‑year exemption so I've been very fortunate to have crossover, meaning I can still play the PGA TOUR as well as the Champions Tour, and it's been a luxury I've been thoroughly able to enjoy.”
Perry’s golf game is intact for the most part. He’s still strong and drives the ball miles. His putting has been outstanding the past several years.
“As we get older, our games change, our bodies change,” he said. “But I've still got a lot of experience and a lot of local knowledge which I can draw upon. I don't feel the pressure that I felt 30 years ago.
“My life is good, so I can just focus in on golf. I can go out and practice and work at my game and try to be the best that KP can be. Obviously my skills are not as good as they used to be, but I still feel like I have the competitive ability if I get hot. At the right moment and in the right circumstance, I can still be very competitive on the PGA TOUR.
“But I love the Champions Tour. All these Hall‑of‑Famers you play with, and you finally get to know them. You're trying to beat them on the regular TOUR where now we're all more of a family out on the Champions Tour, which I really enjoy. I enjoy hanging out with Hale Irwin and Ben Crenshaw, Tom Kite, Fuzzy; all these guys I always looked up to and wanted to be, I actually got to know a little bit now.”
A week of heavy rains softened Fox Chapel last year. It was lift, clean and place and the conditions greatly impacted the scoring. Perry’s winning score was 19-under 261 with rounds of 71-63-63-64. He was 2 strokes better than Couples and Duffy Waldorf.
“The golf course, it was unbelievable how well it stood up through all that rain that we had,” Perry said. “And it was ball-in-hand. I think when you give a professional ball-in-hand, you can get the mud off the golf ball, you can kind of tee it up a little bit in the fairways or around the greens and chipping and stuff. It really gives you a huge advantage. So I think it was really unfair to the golf course because that golf course, there's no way you can shoot 19‑under on that golf course under firm and fast conditions, under normal major conditions.
“My iron play was so good last year, and I was putting tremendously, and that's just kind of what happens to me. I get very streaky. When I get to winning golf tournaments, I won three out of four on the PGA TOUR in 2003 and I won in 2008. It's funny when my game gets hot, it gets hot, and that's what happened. Fox Chapel started a great streak for me, to finally get the burden of not having a major title associated with my name, to finally get that title put to my name.”