U.S. SENIOR OPEN
Finishing Kick: Perry Out-Steadies Triplett for 2nd Senior Open Win July 2, 2017 | PEABODY, Mass. By Ron Driscoll, USGA

Kenny Perry relied on clutch putting to claim victory in the 38th U.S. Senior Open at Salem Country Club. (USGA/Chris Keane)

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When Kenny Perry discussed the challenges facing him in Sunday’s final round of the 38th U.S. Senior Open Championship at Salem Country Club, he pointed first to his playing partner, Kirk Triplett, who held a one-stroke lead.

“Kirk is down the middle, he’s very controlled, and he doesn’t get flustered,” said Perry, 56, of Franklin, Ky. “He’s going to be a tough guy to beat because he doesn’t make too many mistakes.”

Perry, the 2013 winner of this championship, turned the tables on his adversary, playing a bogey-free final round of 2-under-par 68, capped by a string of 12 consecutive pars to finish. Perry, who admitted that he began his second round on Friday “amped up” and opened with two bogeys, was much more settled in at the start on Sunday, and it showed with a birdie on the first hole.

“I had a good warmup session that told me I was in the game, I’m ready to go,” said Perry. “My swing was better today than the other three days. I knew my irons were going to be good, my driver was going to be good.”

Perry followed up his opening birdie with four straight pars and his only other birdie of the day, on the par-5 sixth hole. By that point, he held a two-stroke lead on Triplett, which would grow to four by the turn after Triplett made his third and fourth bogeys of the day. He had made only two bogeys in the first three rounds combined as he built a championship record 15-under total of 195.

“He had control of his ball right from the get-go and I did not, so it was a real struggle for me,” said Triplett, 55, a native of Moses Lake, Wash. “Quite frankly, after the middle of the round, I’m thrilled that I had a chance to force him to make that putt on the last hole.”

Triplett’s rebound that made things interesting began with a birdie on No. 10, his first of three on the day, even as Perry was salvaging a par from out of the woods. Triplett went bogey-birdie on Nos. 13 and 14, so when Perry missed a short birdie putt on the par-5 14th, Triplett still trailed by three. Then came the 224-yard, par-3 15th, Triplett’s best chance to close the gap.

“Fifteen was probably the hardest hole of the day, with the wind in our face,” said Perry. “I just didn’t commit to the 4-iron, because I didn’t know where to hit it on that hole.”

Perry hooked his tee shot short and left of the green, leaving himself no realistic play to the back-left hole location. “I was pretty much dead,” he admitted. He pitched his second shot onto the right side of the green, 24 feet from the hole, in an effort to take double bogey out of play, and then rolled the putt in for par.

“It was a putt that I practiced a lot in the practice round, so I knew what it was going to do,” said Perry. “That putt won me the tournament, by far.”

“He missed the short putt [for birdie on 14] and then he had a poor shot on 15, and there was a little glimmer of hope,” said Triplett. “Then to hole that putt, that was a champion’s putt right there. He was doing the things you need to do to win golf tournaments, and I wasn’t.”

There was one last bit of drama on the final green, as Perry ran his first putt from the fringe 5½ feet past the hole. Triplett had a 25-footer for birdie, and if he made it and Perry missed his par putt, they would be tied. But Triplett ran his bid past the hole, and Perry converted his par to maintain the two-stroke margin.

“It was looking for a time like I was heading down into the pack,” said Triplett, who was seeking his first senior major victory. “So I was glad to kind of resurrect it and at least make him earn it.”

The rest of the field was playing for third on Sunday, and Brandt Jobe – who had leaped up the leader board with a 62 on Saturday – took that spot by one stroke over Tom Lehman and Fred Couples at 9-under 271 with a closing round of 70. Glen Day was sixth at 274, while Scott Verplank, Stephen Ames and Vijay Singh tied for seventh at 5-under 275.

Perry became the sixth multiple champion of the U.S. Senior Open, and the first winner since Bernhard Langer in 2010 at Sahalee Country Club to play a bogey-free final round. His total of 264 (16 under par) bettered by three strokes the championship scoring mark of 267, set by Hale Irwin in 2000 at Saucon Valley in Bethlehem, Pa., and matched by Perry in 2013. Triplett also topped the previous record as runner-up.

After his Senior Open win at Omaha, Perry won twice more in 2014 and once in 2015, but a two-year drought ensued.

“I thought that might have been my last,” Perry admitted of the 2015 3M Championship. “I didn’t think I’d ever be holding the trophy again. That’s how golf is. When you win, you don’t think you’re ever going to lose. And when you’re losing all the time, you think you’re never going to win. That’s just how brutal our sport is. Thank goodness it showed back up again.”

Ron Driscoll is the manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at rdriscoll@usga.org.

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