Golf’s major championships are a cauldron and Kenny Perry has turned up the heat.
This is what we expected from Perry when he arrived on the Champions Tour in the summer of 2010. And why not? His best five-year stretch on the PGA TOUR began when he turned 42. So a seamless, dominating transition was a logical extension of his late-career performances on the PGA TOUR.
Perry won 10 of his 14 PGA TOUR titles beginning in 2003. He won five times combined in 2008 and 2009, just shy of his 50th birthday. He was a star of the victorious U.S. Ryder Cup team in 2008 at Valhalla Golf Club in his native Kentucky.
There was no hiatus for Perry, no transitional period. He was one of those guys who would make the switch and, based on his performances at age 47, 48 and 49, instantly feast on the Champions Tour.
It didn’t happen then but it certainly is happening now.
Perry, always a streaky player, is enjoying a streak like no other in his career which goes all the way back to 1987 when he first became a regular on the PGA TOUR.
He’s won back-to-back senior majors, adding last week’s U.S. Senior Open to the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship title he won two weeks earlier. That’s impressive enough but what’s really remarkable is the kind of golf he has produced in the cauldron.
At Fox Chapel, in the SENIOR PLAYERS Championship, Perry closed with rounds of 63-63-64. At Omaha Country Club, he played the final two rounds of the U.S. Senior Open in 64-63. With major championships on the line, Perry never had a round with more than 64 strokes. That’s five rounds in difficult conditions – the summer squalls in Pittsburgh and the stifling heat on the hills of Omaha Country Club.
“I'm a streaky player,” Perry said. “Like I can win multiple times in a hurry, and then I disappear for a year or six months or whatever, and then I show back up again. I'm just on a hot streak.”
Rocco Mediate knows all about that.
“(Perry) gets on these crazy runs,” Mediate said. “He did it on the regular tour. Now he's doing it here. It's like who are you? It's amazing. He doesn't back off. He's a great champion. I'm glad he won (the U.S. Senior Open). I mean, it's good. He should win one of these, as good as he plays.”
No argument there.
Perry came from behind in both his major victories.
“I like being the hunter,” he said. “I like being the chaser.”
But once he gets the lead, he is just as formidable.
“He's really tough to catch,” said Corey Pavin, one of the unsuccessful pursuers in Omaha. “He's powerful, hits a long way, and makes a lot of putts when he gets it going. He shoots scores like he's shooting now, and it's pretty tough to keep up with him.”
Perry said his failure to hold on at the Senior PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis in May was a turning point.
“I was three up with six to play there and let that one get away,” he said. “But that one kind of fired me up more. The loss didn't devastate me. It actually motivated me, and I think that's what helped me to win Fox Chapel and to win (Omaha).”
At the SENIOR PLAYERS, Perry said he thought he might be snakebit in major events. On the PGA TOUR, he twice was beaten in playoffs at major championships – the 2009 Masters and the 1996 PGA Championship, also at Valhalla. He had a T3 at the 2003 U.S. Open among his six top-10 finishes in majors.
Perry put the disappointments of his near-misses behind him once and for all at the SENIOR PLAYERS and said that he hoped that maybe the floodgates would open. They have and his superlative play has resulted in quite a roll.
“I don't know if it's as good as it was when I won three times in '03 and three times in '08 and twice in '09 on the PGA TOUR,” Perry said. “I don't know if it's as good as that, but I'm still hitting it just as far as I did then. My distance is still the same, which I'm very thankful I haven't lost any distance.
Perry has soared into the lead of the Charles Schwab Cup points list and a commanding position in the Champions Tour Player of the Year race. But he won’t go for a senior major hat trick – he’s passing on next week’s Senior British Open at Royal Birkdale, the fifth and final major of the Champions Tour campaign.
“I’m staying home,” he said. “I've been on the road for nine weeks. I played eight out of the last nine weeks, and I'm tired. I'm going home to celebrate.”
Perry has earned a celebration.
Champions Tour Insider Vartan Kupelian is a freelance contributor for PGATOUR.COM. His views do not necessarily represent the views of the PGA TOUR.