What they said: Kenny Perry

May 03, 2011
PGA TOUR staff

MODERATOR: We welcome Kenny Perry into the interview room for the 2011 Regions Tradition.

Kenny, this is your fifth career start on the Champions Tour, this week playing in your first senior major. I know you got around through the rain and got in 11 holes today, but maybe just some thoughts. I know you had to rearrange your schedule to come play in this, but I know everybody's glad you're here.

KENNY PERRY: I'm excited. Played here in 1990. I didn't remember much about the place, I just remembered how deep the rough was in '90 and how you definitely had to be really accurate off the tee. I played the back 9 this morning and I played 1 and 2 before it opened up, the skies opened up.

There's no rough out there this year, so to me it's a big difference. You can actually kind of -- the ball can get away a little bit and you actually play some shots to these greens, second shots, now.

But I noticed, being a Bermuda grass, that around the greens, the chipping areas, the run-off areas are very thin, so it's going to be tough chipping this week. It's definitely going to be a premium on hitting greens this week. There's not going to be lot of up-and-downs. I hit it in some areas where it was just bare, there wasn't even grass. I was trying to hit a rescue and putt it up the slope, so that's going to be difficult.

When I played the golf course, I'm thinking, you know, if you can somehow get to 4-, 5-under, I'm thinking that's got a great chance of winning this week. It's a ball striker's -- it's long, it's 7,200 or 300. There's a lot of long holes out there, very tight, so you've got to really drive it well. The premium this week's going to be on a driver.

MODERATOR: I know all the players are excited to be here at Shoal Creek. Your assessment of it as a major championship venue??

KENNY PERRY: Definitely, the golf course is fantastic. You're not going to get away with winning here. You're definitely going to have to man up and hit golf shots. You're not going to get away with anything out here. The guy who actually hits it the best this week is probably going to have the best chance of winning. There's not going to be a lot of scrambling I don't think. I think there's going to be a premium on hitting fairways, hitting greens.

I've only played four, this is going to be my first senior major. The ones I played in, the scores were very low, except for Tampa. I played in Houston and San Antonio last year and Freddie Couples shot like 19-under at The Woodlands where we played a TOUR event forever, and I was just blown away how low and how fast these guys can get it going. So I kind of had to reassess my thinking out here, be a little more aggressive and try to make -- definitely you've got to try to make birdies out here, but I don't think you have to do that this week. This reminds me of a major venue, it feels like a major venue. It feels like par is a good score this week. Majors on the regular TOUR, par is the number you're after. If you can make a couple birdies, you try to make them, just draw interest, just hang in there with them, hold on to them and not let them go. So I think this week's going to be a similar kind of situation.

MODERATOR: We'll just open it up for questions.

Q. You talked about the rough right away from 1990. How much different does it make the golf course that you don't have the rough to contend with? Is it quite a bit more difficult when you had to contend with the rough the way it was?

KENNY PERRY: Definitely, it was very difficult with the rough. I just remember pitching out -- I mean, the rough wasn't that tall, it was probably only four or five inches but it just seemed like it sank right to the bottom and you really couldn't get a club on it, you really couldn't get it moving very well, and then if you did get a moving, it was like a super flyer and it was just like out of here. You couldn't control it at all. So if you hit it in the rough, you were trying to lay it up to a spot where you could get it up and down. You didn't get it on the green very often. Very few times could you get it on the green.

You had a lot of pressure on the tee ball. When you're stepping up there and you saw how narrow those 15-, 20-yard fairways and you saw that deep thick rough out there, it really put a lot of pressure on you off the tee. I think that's why Wayne won. Wayne's a very straight, very controlled, very accurate driver of the golf ball.

So now when I look -- I played the back 9 first and to me I didn't feel I guess you'd say claustrophobic, I didn't feel like it had sucked me in like it did in 1990. Now all you're trying do is keep it inside the tree line, which is still -- it's wider, it's a lot wider, but I didn't feel the heat or I felt more, I guess, more relaxed is the word and free swinging it more than I did in 1990.

Q. Were there any other memories today that when you were playing that you sort of remembered from when you played in 1990??

KENNY PERRY: Not really. I told my caddie, I said, you know, normally when you play a golf course, you can kind of remember a hole here or there, whatever. I could not remember any of these holes out here. I mean, I was lost out there. It was like I played it for the first time.

It was so funny, my old caddie who caddied for Jeff Sluman, Jimmy Walker, he came over on the first tee, my 10th hole today. He looked at me, he says, you know I caddied for you back in 1990. I couldn't remember who my caddie was and he had my yardage book and he had all the numbers. I was on The first tee and he goes, You hit a 1-iron off this hole. He goes, Do you have a 1-iron? I was like no, I've got all these hybrids now, I don't have a 1-iron. So it was pretty funny, we were getting a chuckle out of that. Back then I carried a 1-iron through like a 56-degree wedge. Now I carry a 60- and 64-degree wedge and I have more like a hybrid, you know, utility stuff, so I've changed a lot in that area.

Q. Did you look through the yardage book or did you --

KENNY PERRY: I kind of fumbled through it on a few of the holes just to kind of see what I was doing and how I played the back 9 and it was very similar. I was in very similar spots as I was in '90.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about your transition? You talked just a minute ago about the transition onto the Champions Tour, but just kind of what are some of the things, how's the transition been for you?

KENNY PERRY: Well, at first I was having -- I was struggling doing it. I just can't believe I'm 50, for one, and I was having trouble because my whole -- I played 25 years on the regular TOUR and it was just hard for me to just say okay, I'm done. I still feel like I can compete out there.

But then the more I've been out here and been hanging with the guys, I'm starting to soften up a little bit and I love it out here. To me, this is a tremendous Tour. You've got all the old guys that kind of made me who I am. I looked up to all these guys.

It was so funny, at Tampa I was looking -- they put up the pro am tee times for the next week, the team event, and I looked up, I saw Wednesday and then the next one I thought it said Tuesday, it was written there. Hale Irwin was right there in the corner and he tapped me, I said, Hale, come over here. Are we playing a pro-am on Tuesday because my name is on that slot. He was looking, scratching his head. He says, You dummy. He goes -- what they had done is they left the H off Thursday, it was spelled T-U-R-S-D-A-Y, and I just glanced at it. And he said, They even spelled it like Kentucky spells it. He said, You redneck. He said, that's Tursday. So Hale's still giving it to me even now when I come out here and it's just fun hanging out with those guys and listening to the stories.

This Tour's very relaxed. If you play great, great. If you don't, it's no big deal either. You just keep going. I'll never forget John Cook, I played poorly at Houston the first round and he says -- he shook my hand after the round, he said, You know what they say out here on the Champions Tour? I had just shot 75 or whatever. No, what do they say? Good luck on the weekend. So if I had done that on the regular TOUR, I would be down the road, but it's just a lot of laughs out here. Like I said, this is more like a 40-yard dash on a regular event and the TOUR's more like a marathon to me. You've got to really go out here. They're going to shoot 12- to 20-under in three days. When you think about that, that's a lot of birdies. You've got to change your mindset, you've got to really get after it, where on the regular TOUR, you've got time to catch up with that extra 18 holes, that 72 holes. You can kind of play your way into Friday, you can kind of get it going, and Saturday's what we call moving day, hopefully you can fire a good round to move to where you need to be, and Sunday make it happen. I enjoy them both, but I really enjoy this Tour.

I hired a new swing coach or an old swing coach that I used to work with. This is great for me just to get out here and work on these in competition under pressure to see where I'm at, how are they going to work. It's been great for me to kind of get my golf game back where now when I go to the PLAYERS next week, I think I'm going to have a little bit of game to play at the PLAYERS next week, to get out here and compete and put pressure on myself and see where my game is.

Q. With that being said, do you kind of laugh at yourself? You said, first of all, you couldn't believe you're 50, but you're sort of laughing that you hesitated to be out here. It's been a good experience?

KENNY PERRY: It's been a great experience. The more I'm out here, it's been a lot easier for me to think I'm going to start spending a lot more time out here. It's going to be easy for me to -- I'll still always play Colonial and Memorial because I've got lifetime exemptions to all these tournaments that I've won. But luckily, a lot of these tournaments fall on the off weeks on the Champions Tour. There's only a couple that's going to fight with me that I'm going to have to either not go to the PGA or I'll just see where I'm at on the Charles Schwab or Fed Ex or whatever, if I'm doing good one way or another. It's hard to really be competitive on both Tours, you really can't do that. You need to really focus on one or the other. I've still got three more years exemptions on the regular TOUR, so I can play out there for three more years except I'm not in the majors or the Fed Ex deal at the end of the year. So I'm gradually working my way over here full time. I'm not going to be full time for a couple more years. There's still tournaments and events over there I love and I enjoy playing, but I see myself now -- at first I didn't see myself coming in this direction, but now, the more I'm out here and the more I'm hanging, it's a lot easier for me to really want to just come out here full time. I'm really enjoying it.

Q. You talked about it's a little more relaxed out here, very competitive still, but was the first tournament you played in or the first couple, was that a little --

KENNY PERRY: Well, I was very nervous. I didn't know what to expect. Just anything, when you're green at anything, you don't really know what to expect, how the guys, how are they going to welcome you in. They've all just been great. It's just been fun hanging out with all of them, talking to them. I feel very comfortable out here now. After four events, I feel like I fit in out here now. At first I felt like an outsider looking in, but now I feel like part of the family.

Q. That had to be strange, as long as you've played golf, as long as you've been on the tours, to be green in something.


Q. It had to feel funny.

KENNY PERRY: Well, it's starting over again. I was playing golf courses -- the first two I played, I had played a lot, San Antonio and Houston, but the one in Tampa I never played. I'm going to start playing courses now I never played before. Luckily, I played here in 1990, but when you start all over trying to chart golf courses and seeing where you need to play course management to position the ball, it's a learning curve again. Where am I going to stay, what's the easiest place -- you really need to know where to stay this week because that 280's a nightmare out there. You need to stay where you're always going against traffic where it's not a struggle to get to the golf course. I like knowing it's easy for me to get to the golf course and not struggling in traffic. You have to learn where to eat and travel and how to play the golf course again. It is kind of weird starting over again at this late -- at 50 years old, but I'm enjoying it.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Kenny.