Perry finds the antidote for years of heartache at Fox Chapel

Perry wins the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship

In the final round of the 2013 Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship, Kenny Perry shoots a final-round 64 to claim his third win on the Champions Tour.

June 30, 2013

By Vartan Kupelian, PGATOUR.COM Contributor

PITTSBURGH -- Snakebit no more.

Kenny Perry has experienced his share of disappointment in major championships. He thought it was more than coincidence, more than just poor golf luck.

“I thought I was snakebit, I really did,” Perry said Sunday after putting the notion to rest. “I got close so many times and I just seemed to mess up down the homestretch and not make it happen.

“Today, I went the other direction. I hit great golf shots. I wasn’t trying to hang on. I was trying to make birdies. That was a different mindset from before. Instead of trying to make pars I was trying to make birdies.”

Perry did so in remarkable fashion to win the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship at Fox Chapel Golf.

How good was it? This good:

Perry shot 19-under 261. After opening with a 71, he fired rounds of 63-63-64 and over that stretch he made 19 birdies and two eagles, including six in the bogey-free final round which produced a 2-shot victory over Duffy Waldorf (64) and Fred Couples (68).

“The golf course allowed us to do it,” Perry said. “Ball in hand, wet fairways, wet greens. It was set up for a classic shootout.”

There could have been more birdies. Perry missed a couple of short putts in the final round and on the 72nd green, he hastily swiped at a five-foot birdie putt just to get the tournament completed. A PGA TOUR official was standing nearby ready to blow the horn to suspend play again. But the impending storm, and so many like it for five days which tried to derail Fox Chapel, failed to stop Perry’s mission to finally win a major championship.

“I knew he was holding the horn for us,” Perry said. “On 15, he told us there was a system coming so once Duffy made it, I just dropped the ball and hit it, whacked it up there, got it in and out of the hole, and he blew the horn. A pretty interesting situation.”

Perry’s best finishes in major championships on the PGA TOUR were a pair of seconds -- playoff losses at the 1996 PGA Championship and the 2009 Masters. Last month, he finished second at the Senior PGA Championship when it looked like the title very well might be his before the unknown Kohki Idoki claimed the title at Bellerive.

“Bellerive was set up perfect for me,” Perry said. “A big golf course, very similar to here, big fairways. I just fell apart there at the end there. I lost my rhythm.”

Perry was determined – snakebite notwithstanding – not to let it happen again.

“I wasn’t going to put any pressure on myself to win the golf tournament because I had so much heartache and so many losses on the regular tour, I lost the Masters and PGA Championship in playoffs,” Perry said. “I was just thinking, you know what, I’m tired of worrying about it. I really was.

“I remember Phil’s (Mickelson) quote about all the U.S. Open second places, ‘All I feel is heartbreak.’ I said I feel your pain Phil. I relaxed. I was actually more relaxed out there today, and more comfortable.”

And then Perry said something that summed up his victory, and the entire week. Asked if he thought that now that he has an antidote for snakebite, there might be more senior majors to come.

“I’m hoping the floodgates are going to open,” he said. “I really do.”

If they do, he’ll fondly remember what happened at Fox Chapel and know that he’s fully capable of winning whenever and wherever the floodgates open again.

With 810 Charles Schwab Cup points, Perry moved from ninth to first in the standings of the season-long competition. The breakthrough victory came in his 10th start in a senior major, and his third in the SENIOR PLAYERS. Perry also earned a spot in The PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass next year.

“Look forward to it,” he said.

This time, it was Couples who was left to wonder what might have -- or should have? -- happened.

“It was a little bit of a sour day the way I played,” said Couples, who started the final round with a 2-stroke lead over Perry. “I hit every fairway and drove it well so who knows? They (Perry and Waldorf) played great -- 64, 64. Kenny played very well and didn’t make any mistakes and I sure did.”

In his Champions Tour debut, Colin Montgomerie shot 8-under 272 and climbed into a tie for ninth with a final round 66.

“I’ve really enjoyed it,” Montgomerie said. “I’ve been very welcomed, which has been lovely to sense the warmth.

“I’m delighted with a top 10 to start. I’ve obviously a lot of work to do because the standard is very, very high. I knew that before coming out. It’s just a matter of witnessing it firsthand. I know there are some great golfers here and I’ve got to cut out the mistakes to compete on that level.”