USGA CHAMPIONS
Following Surgery, 2-Time Champion Kenny Perry Ready for 2018 November 30, 2017 | Scottsdale, Ariz. By Tom Mackin

Kenny Perry produced a record-setting performance in claiming his second U.S. Senior Open title in July at Salem Country Club. (USGA/Jeff Haynes)

Having undergone shoulder surgery after the PGA Tour Champions’ season ended on Nov. 12, two-time U.S. Senior Open champion Kenny Perry will spend an extended offseason in unfamiliar waters.

“I’ve never gone three months without hitting a golf ball,” said Perry, 57, of Franklin, Ky. “I’ll be going stir-crazy at home.”

The time off will, however, allow the 14-time PGA Tour winner to reflect on those two U.S. Senior Open titles, including his record-setting performance at Salem County Club in Massachusetts in June.

“That was a magical week of golf,” said Perry, whose 16-under-par 264 broke the Senior Open scoring record of 267 set by Hale Irwin in 2000 at Saucon Valley Country Club. Perry also shot 267 in his 2013 Senior Open victory at Omaha Country Club.

“I hadn’t played great all year and for one week, for whatever reason, I was able to get it together four straight days, mentally and physically. I controlled the golf ball phenomenally that week,” said Perry of his two-stroke victory over Kirk Triplett, the only player to finish within seven strokes of him.

So much so that Perry’s bogey-free final round was the first by a champion since Bernhard Langer accomplished the feat during his 2010 U.S. Senior Open win at Sahalee Country Club.

“Normally, that’s almost impossible on a U.S. Senior Open course,” said Perry of his closing 2-under-par 68. “But I kept to my game plan and was very patient. My focus was sharper that week for whatever reason. Maybe I just wanted it more. I stayed away from back-right flags, which are usually the ones that get me. I didn’t try heroic shots or to hit some fades to a back-right pin. I just tried to take what the golf course would give me.”

He employed the same strategy during his five-stroke win in 2013.

“That week was the hottest I’ve ever been in my life, oh my word,” he said. “That course was in my wheelhouse, though. I was strong enough that I could carry all the trouble and cut the corner on a lot of doglegs. After the practice rounds, I told my caddie that week if I can drive it well, we will have a good shot at winning. Sure enough, that’s what happened.”

The win provided Perry with the confidence that more major titles were possible.

“It really opened my eyes to a lot of these bigger tournaments and majors. I failed miserably in those on the PGA Tour,” said Perry, who lost in playoffs in the 1996 PGA Championship and the 2009 Masters. “I just couldn’t get over the hump to win a major.”

That has not been the case on the 50-and-older tour. Perry owns four senior major titles, including the 2013 Constellation Players Championship and 2014 Regions Tradition, in addition to his two U.S. Senior Open titles.

Perry hopes to increase that total in 2018 when he defends his U.S. Senior Open title June 28-July 1 on the East Course at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo. The only player with three U.S. Senior Open victories is Miller Barber, who won in 1982, 1984 and 1985. Perry became the fifth player to win twice, joining Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Hale Irwin and Allen Doyle. 

Kenny Perry's 2018 USGA Schedule
Championship Venue Dates Shop
U.S. Open Shinnecock Hills Golf Club June 11-17 Tickets
U.S. Senior Open The Broadmoor June 25-July 1 Tickets

The Broadmoor has hosted seven previous USGA championships, including the 2008 U.S. Senior Open, won by Eduardo Romero.

“I have never played there but have heard it’s fantastic,” Perry said of a course that features nine holes designed by Donald Ross and nine by Robert Trent Jones Sr. “I was never good at The International (Perry advanced to Sunday three times in that former PGA Tour event, which used a modified Stableford scoring system and was played at Castle Pines Golf Club in Colorado), but I hit the ball forever there.”

Located at 6,230 feet above sea level, The Broadmoor doesn’t offer Perry his ideal playing conditions.

“I play my best when there’s water in the air,” he said. “When you’re in light air, the ball just knuckles, and I don’t get enough spin on it. I may need to get a driver with more loft for that week.”

His 2017 U.S. Senior Open win also earned Perry a spot in the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y.

“I hope somehow I can regain some type of form to where I can play well there,” said Perry, whose best finish in the U.S. Open is a tie for third in 2003 at Olympia Fields Country Club. “I can still hit it 300 yards off the tee, but a U.S. Open is not based on power, in my opinion, especially at Shinnecock with all of the wispy grass and all the trouble everywhere. We’ll see. I’m just going to enjoy it because it’s a great opportunity.”

Perry’s made the most of his opportunities on the PGA Tour Champions, compiling nine wins since 2011 among his 56 top-10 finishes in 123 starts.

“This Tour is mind-blowing as to how far under par you have to shoot over three days. It’s definitely a 100-yard dash,” he said of the typical 54-hole format on tour. “You have to be firing on all eight cylinders come the first day. It’s hard to come back if you shoot over par.”

He does relish the increased camaraderie, however.

“I think what’s different about this Tour is we’re all kind of pulling for each other. If I’m not playing very well, I’m still going to be rooting for my friends, even in the majors. On the PGA Tour, I was into my own thing and didn’t really care what anyone else was doing. I was trying to make a living and be successful. Out here, it’s more like this has been your family for 35 years.”

As for the two Francis D. Ouimet Memorial trophies that Perry has earned, he keeps one at his home and the other at Country Creek Golf Course, a facility he owns in Franklin.

“It’s a beautiful trophy, but with all that silver, I have to keep polishing them,” he said. “It’s so cool to look at all the names of great champions like [Jack] Nicklaus and [Arnold] Palmer. You don’t realize how prestigious that trophy really is. Having my name on it twice is pretty cool.”

As for the possibility of adding to it a third time?

“Oh my goodness,” said Perry. “I haven’t thought that far before to tell you the truth. There would be no words to describe it if that happened.”

Tom Mackin is an Arizona-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to USGA websites.

 

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