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Perry Hopes to Be Competitive at Valhalla


Kenny Perry has a simple goal this week at the PGA Championship. The native of Elizabethtown, Ky., won't be the oldest player at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville - 64-year-old Tom Watson will - but Perry, who turns 54 on Sunday, August 10, says he hopes he'll be "competitive" in front of what will assuredly be an adoring partisan crowd.

"That would be a Cinderella story to be competitive on your birthday, at 54 years old," he told reporters Tuesday about going against the world's best golfers in the final major of the year. "I thought about it, but that's dreamland really."

Perry has experienced success before at the Jack Nicklaus-designed course. He was in position for his first Grand Slam title in the 1996 PGA Championship but bogeyed the final hole, slipping into a playoff where he lost to Mark Brooks. Perry seemed to be a lock that year, needing only a par on the last to take home the Wanamaker Trophy.

But it wasn't to be for Perry, who now calls Franklin, Ky., home and received an invitation to this year's championship by the PGA of America at what's considered his "home" course. He doesn't regret what happened in '96 thanks to a stellar, consistent career that has resulted in 14 titles on the PGA Tour and another seven - including three majors - on the Champions Tour.

"You can look at that two ways," said Perry, of his '96 disappointment. "You can either fold up and kick the dog, whatever, be sorry about yourself and go on; but I didn't look at it that way. I love playing golf. I love competing, and I love providing for my family. It's been a great career. I've met a lot of people along the way. I've traveled the world. The experiences are what I call scrap-booking. You've got all these things in your life that's made you who you are in your life."

In addition to his 1996 PGA collapse, Perry also had a real chance for a green jacket at the 2009 Masters. Leading by two with two holes to go, he bogeyed the the 17th and 18th at Augusta National and eventually lost to Spain's Angel Cabrera on the second playoff hole.

"Yeah, those are some downtimes, but yet I've had a lot of great times and a lot of wins. I've won 14 times on the regular tour and now I've got seven wins on the Champions Tour. I've had way more ups than I've had downs, and not a lot of guys can really say that (about) playing golf."

Perry quipped to reporters he looks a bit different than he did 18 years ago at Valhalla, where one of his career highlights came in 2008 when he was a member of the victorious U.S. Ryder Cup team. "I've got a lot more gray hair than I did back in '96. The difference, I'm a lot older.

"I just want to be competitive," he noted of this week. "If I can somehow make the cut and get out there I'm excited about my pairing, I have Henrik Stenson and Ryan Moore, and then I have Bubba (Watson) and Rory (McIlroy) and Martin Kaymer right behind me, and I have Tom Watson right in front of me. So they throw me right in the mix of all the great players, so Kentucky is going to see me either have a lot of nerves hopefully I can enjoy it and soak it all in, and whatever happens, happens.

"I'm not trying to be the best golfer in the world anymore," added Perry, who's coming off a one-stroke victory over the indomitable Bernhard Langer in last week's 3M Championship after firing rounds of 65, 63 and 65 at TPC Twin Cities in Minnesota. "I'm just trying to enjoy each and every moment I've got, and that's just kind of how I'm approaching this week.

"I'm playing good golf. I played great last week, but this is a totally different golf course, and it's going to take a great effort from me just to even be competitive. I've got to really do a lot of things right and not make many mistakes. But if not, you know, that's golf. We all play golf and we all know how tough it is, and we have our moments and we don't have our moments. So I'm definitely looking forward to the challenge."

Here's what else the reigning Charles Schwab Cup champion - and the grandfather of two, with another on the way - had to tell the media during his Tuesday Q&A at Valhalla.

MODERATOR: Kentucky's own Kenny Perry returns to Valhalla Golf club this week for the 96th PGA Championship. Kenny, you've had heartache here in 1996 at the PGA Championship and you've had elation here at The Ryder Cup in 2008. Give us a sense of what this week means to you personally to come back here to Valhalla one more time.

KENNY PERRY: Well, I'm overjoyed for one thing. I thank Ted Bishop and the PGA of America for extending the invitation for me to come out and play. It's hard to believe 30 years have gone by so fast. I can't believe I'm that old to tell you the truth. Like you said, I've had heartache in '96, when Mark Brooks beat me in a playoff. And then to be in the winning Ryder Cup Team under Paul Azinger, ecstatic. My dad, at 86 years old, coming off the green in his bib overalls and giving me a hug, it was pretty special for a father and son.

Then I played I believe the 2011 Senior PGA was here. You know, this is home. This is where I love to go, and to me, this is the pinnacle of golf in Kentucky and just excited for the opportunity to go out the back door one more time, as they say, one more time.

MODERATOR: And you were saying based on what you've seen of the golf course, it's in impeccable shape.

KENNY PERRY: The greens are perfect, the fairways are incredible. I didn't see a blade of grass out of place out there. That bluegrass rough is as mean and nasty as ever. It's going to take a great champion this week, a guy who drives it long and straight. I couldn't hardly even get to the fairway on 17 today from that back tee box, so it's going to be interesting. I just think the guys are all going to get to enjoy what Kentucky is all about, the scenery. It's just a beautiful golf course. You can just look around at all the people and settings, and I was marveling at how great a shape this place is and proud of it. Being a Kentuckian, it made me pretty proud.

Q. Talk about the changes since you played in the Ryder Cup to today.

KENNY PERRY: Well, they are subtle. The golf course is longer. 16 and 17 are a lot longer. All the green complexes are different. He actually added a little here and there, like the back right on one, on all the greens, to where he can actually put more pin placements now. I had to throw away my books, all the books that I had charted in '96, 2008 and 2011. I had a lot of good homework on this golf course. You know, sight lines are pretty close to the same but the green complexes are all totally different. The balls break different. There's subtle changes on all of them.

You know, that's the big difference to me is the greens. The greens, they are breaking differently now than they did in the past, so I've had to redo my homework. I don't think really anybody has an advantage this week. You know, knowing a golf course, you say you come to a place year after year after year, like the Masters or Augusta, you pretty much know what you're getting when you go there. Where here, it's changed. So we're all starting from scratch.

Q. What do you attribute to your success last year winning the majors on the Champions Tour and then the run that you've had thus far this year, what do you attribute to your success?

KENNY PERRY: Well, it's kind of been my career. Timing I guess is everything. I get hot and when I get hot, things happen for KP. I won three times in 2003, I won three times in 2008, a couple times in 2009. I just get on these hot runs to where for a month there, I'll play great golf and I'll win golf tournaments and I'll shoot low scores. That's what happened to me last summer in Omaha and at Fox Chapel. I just started shooting 63s and 64s. I can't explain why. I wish I knew why, I would have done it early.

That's just the nature of my game. I just started putting better. Seems like those weeks I started holing a lot of putts. My tee to green game has always been constant throughout my career, and I've always been pretty good on the total driving statistics in length and accuracy combined. I hit a lot of greens. To me it was always short game, pitching and putting. Last week I worked I won the 3M Championship last week, and I was really good from 100 yards and in, which I think is really going to help me here this week, because I'm not going to hit all these fairways. If I miss the fairway out here, I'm pretty much chipping out to a yardage to hopefully I can try to get up and down and save a par. So you know, that was good, and I holed a lot of putts. So hopefully I can carry that over into this week to just kind of help get me competitive.

Q. Seems like you signed autographs for about an hour coming off the 18th there. How much do you enjoy that? And on a week like this, is that good for guys like you and J.B. Holmes to have that, or is it a distraction at all?

KENNY PERRY: No, it's great. I mean, in my 30 years or whatever, 28 years, 29 years, I never really had to spend a lot of time signing autographs. To me it's a way of saying thank you for 30 years of support and thank you for your love and compassion for me. I enjoyed it for me personally. There were a lot of people yelling out where they were from, Glasgow, Kentucky, Bowling Green, Kentucky, all these little towns that are around Franklin where I live that came to watch and support me this week, so I thought that was neat.

Q. You talked about as you get older and maybe kind of reflect on your career, obviously you've had a lot of success in your career. Obviously you also could have probably been were pretty close to being a Major Champion, even a two time major champion. As you get older, do you look back on '96 or the Masters and have a little regret about letting those get away and what it could have done differently for your life?

KENNY PERRY: You know what, you always look back. I think everybody, human nature will say, what if; what if I would have made a par here on 18 in '96 and I would have won the PGA Championship; what if I would have parred 17 or 18 at Augusta and I would have won the green jacket. But then again, you know, why not. They were blows in my career. If I would have had those two majors, you could look at my career as a Hall of Fame career. I would have won 16 times with two majors. That would probably have been close to a Hall of Fame career. I mean, Freddie Couples gets in with 15 wins and one major. I was that close to getting in the Hall of Fame, I guess you could say, in a sense, but yet it made me stronger.

You can look at that two ways. You can either fold up and kick the dog, whatever, be sorry about yourself and go on; but I didn't look at it that way. I love playing golf. I love competing, and I love providing for my family. It's been a great career. I've met a lot of people along the way. I've traveled the world. The experiences are what I call scrap-booking. You've got all these things in your life that's made you who you are in your life.

Yeah, those are some downtimes, but yet I've had a lot of great times and a lot of wins. I've won 14 times on the regular tour and now I've got seven wins on the Champions Tour. I've had way more ups than I've had downs, and not a lot of guys can really say that playing golf.

Q. Do you have another shot in you like at the Open this summer?

KENNY PERRY: That was magical, 220 yards out of a bunker with a hybrid and knock it in the hole. I had all my buddies calling me, saying, I'm tired of you looking at you on SportsCenter (laughter). That's pretty funny. I thought it was pretty neat. You know what they say in life, timing is everything.

MODERATOR: Certainly is.

Q. When you look back on '96, what is one memory that you will always think of first? And how did that experience make you a better player?

KENNY PERRY: Well, it's always what if. I mean, I always think about the 18th hole. Every time I get on 18, I mean, that hole has I've had a hard time with that hole. It's a hole I can hit driver, 4 iron in the middle of the green. It's a par-5 that's very gettable and you can make eagle on. I think that's pretty disappointing to have a hole where I struggle to make par on it, much less make an easy birdie. I hooked my drive really bad on the 72nd hole into trouble and laid up poorly, but I did have a 10 footer for par to win the tournament and I hit a poor putt.

But it taught me a lot about finishing and not getting ahead of yourself and thinking about the prize at the end. A lot of times I'm thinking about winning but I'm not done yet. Got me more in the moment and helped me down the road win golf tournaments. It made me grow up a little bit, I guess you'd say. It took me about a year, year and a half to get over that loss. I played very poorly for about a year and was always thinking about that event. But then once I got through it, the loss at the Masters really didn't bother me that bad. I won two weeks later at Hartford. I guess it just made me tougher more than anything.

Q. Do you feel like you're a different guy now, much less a different golfer than you were in '96? And a side note, your birthday is Sunday; do you allow yourself that Disney World movie kind of movement, that, what a way to go out, because you touched on it the last time you were here, this was going to be your last career regulatory Tour major. The whole Cinderella story thing and all that stuff?

KENNY PERRY: That would be a Cinderella story to be competitive on your birthday, at 54 years old. I thought about it, but that's dreamland really. I've got a lot more gray hair than I did back in '96. The difference, I'm a lot older. I just want to be competitive. If I can somehow make the cut and get out there I'm excited about my pairing, I have Henrik Stenson and Ryan Moore, and then I have Bubba and Rory and Martin Kaymer right behind me and I have Tom Watson right in front of me. So they throw me right in the mix of all the great players, so Kentucky is going to see me either have a lot of nerves hopefully I can enjoy it and soak it all in, and whatever happens, happens.

I'm not trying to be the best golfer in the world anymore. I'm just trying to enjoy each and every moment I've got, and that's just kind of how I'm approaching this week. I'm playing good golf. I played great last week, but this is a totally different golf course, and it's going to take a great effort from me just to even be competitive. I've got to really do a lot of things right and not make many mistakes. But if not, you know, that's golf. We all play golf and we all know how tough it is, and we have our moments and we don't have our moments. So I'm definitely looking forward to the challenge.

Q. I know in the past, you've done a lot of drag racing. Is that still the case, or can you talk a little bit about that? Because that's really out there from a European point of view?

KENNY PERRY: I still have my car that I used to race. I used to race six or ten times a year, but I haven't had it out in two years. I've got grand kids now. Going 200 miles an hour, things happen, and I want to actually spend more time with them. Don't want to take the chance like I used to take. But I'm still involved with it. I have a good buddy, Billy Glidden who runs in the NHRA, he runs Pro Mod. And I'm actually going to go to the U.S. Nationals here in a couple weeks and be in the pit crew and just kind of hang out with him and help him out whatever he needs.

I still love the sport. I've always enjoyed the sport. I like speed. I've got a lot of old muscle cars at the house that I mess with, like '69 Camaros and Novas and Corvettes and Chevelles. I've got all the old Chevys. I've always liked speed and always enjoyed drag racing and that's just always been a part of me.

Q. Have you had any close calls?

KENNY PERRY: I have, yeah. I was probably running 180 miles an hour when the car got away from me, got loose. I actually had a wreck, but I didn't hit nothing. The car got sideways and I'm doing 180 miles an hour at the eighth mile mark and I was able to parachute, and when the parachute blossomed behind the car, it save me from going into the wall and straightened me up. I needed to go change my clothes when I got done after that one (laughter).

Q. You talked about the grand kids. How different does that make your mentality on the course, a little freer, being relaxed and being around them; does it make a hot streak a little easier, play a little better when they are around?

KENNY PERRY: You know what, Sandy and I keep them every Tuesday. What's great about the Champions Tour is that on Tuesdays, I don't have to really show up to the Champions Tour, I fly out on Wednesday, Thursday is the Pro AM. Friday, Saturday Sunday is the tournament. So Tuesday is the day to keep the grandkids. I have a three year old boy and one year old granddaughter. I don't know how I had that much energy. I had three kids under three at one time. And I'm telling Sandy, my wife, I don't know how we did this. Chasing them all over the place, it's just been a treat for me, to help my kids, to help get them in the right paths to raise their children.

Just found out my youngest daughter well, y'all can't tell nobody, okay, I wasn't supposed to say this but she's going to have one in February, so I'm going to have another one coming. I wasn't supposed to say nothing, so don't get this out in the news. Don't tell anybody; y'all be quiet (laughter). We're excited. My family's growing and it's just a treat to raise the grand kids. I tell people, if I could have had grand kids first, I would never have had kids (laughter).

Q. So does the three year old grandson already have clubs in his hand?

KENNY PERRY: Definitely. I gave him clubs the day he was born. I brought a whole set into the hospital room. But you know what, his name's Rowdy, and he's already got a motorcycle, a four wheeler, and he lives at Old Stone, which is a golf course in Bowling Green, Kentucky. And his father has already put him in the 4 wheeler. They border the 17th hole. It's got a great big fairway bunker. They tied three rakes behind the four wheeler, so he's in the middle of this bunker wide open in his four wheeler pulling, but you can't see nothing because the rake is covering up his marks. I said, it's pretty ingenious, really. We've got a lake house and we've got a boat and he loves to get out on the water and we've got the jet skis. It's just been a treat to watch him enjoy the time. We have a great time together. He's all boy.

Q. Today normally you would be with the grandchildren?

KENNY PERRY: That's correct. You're cutting me out on my baby sitting duties today.

Q. That being said, you won last week. Can you just talk about that and if gives you any momentum coming into this week?

KENNY PERRY: Well, I think so. I mean, when you can beat Bernhard Langer, you've done something. I mean, that guy is a machine out there. Obviously we played a golf course that's 7,000 yards long, but I drove the ball really well and I putted outstanding, and I took advantage of anything from 80 yards and in, I converted. I made birdies.

Been working on a lot of shots, Matt Killen has been helping me on my chipping and pitching of the golf ball around the greens. I always said I had the yips, but it really wasn't the yips, it was just poor technique. As soon as he told me you need to feel like you are trying to hook a chip shot I don't know if y'all have ever tried to hook a chip shot, I immediately the club quit digging and I got shallower and I started pitching the golf ball like you're supposed to pitch the golf ball. That really helped me, one little tip there.

I started chipping the ball better, and next thing you know I'm shooting 65, 63, 64 last week, just played phenomenal, out of nowhere. I hadn't been playing great all year. I won the Regions earlier in the year, but I really hadn't been doing a lot this year. I was using last week as a warm-up to this week. To go in there and play as well as I did, it's really given me a lot of confidence for this week. If I can drive it like I did last week and hit these fairways, you know, I'm going in there with longer clubs than most of the guys, but my iron play is always still pretty good, and if my putter wakes up, I can shoot halfway decent scores here. I've played this golf course a million times so I know it very well, but I'm still learning the greens. But the sight lines and the course management and the way I need to play this golf course for me to be successful, I understand. So I'm looking forward to it. It's going to be a big challenge though, for me, Alex, it really is.

Q. The thing with Matt Killen, is that something you worked on last week?

KENNY PERRY: Yes, worked on them before I went to 3M Championship, sure did.

Q. I know you deal with arthritis and bad knees. For us old golfers that have these problems, how do you deal with that to be so successful as far as medication or exercise?

KENNY PERRY: I take, it's a product it's Chondroitin Glucosamine, I don't know how you pronounce all that stuff, fish oil. I'm taking some things that seemed to have helped my knees. I've had two knee surgeries, one on each knee, and what I struggle with is uneven lies. That hurts me more than anything now. I struggle on an unbalanced lie. My knees give way and they hurt me a lot.

I do a lot of stretching. I think that's important. I don't really do a lot of heavy weight lifting, but I think you need to be flexible and supple to play golf, you really do. And just by walking and watching what you eat; I have watched what I eat. Try to stay away from a lot of carbs and breads and cheeses and try to keep my weight down. I can get to 240 in a hurry and right now I'm probably 220. That's been good, and I need to keep the weight off my knees as much as possible. Just be smart. Those things have helped me to stay out here as long as I have, so it's been great.

Q. Do you have an idea what number it might take to win this thing?

KENNY PERRY: I still think around 15 under is going to win, I really do. I haven't heard what anybody is thinking or feeling, but I can see a guy if you see a Rory McIlroy drive it like he can drive it and he's flipping those short irons into these holes, he can bust loose and shoot a low round here. But you've got to be spot on. If he gets loose with the driver, if anybody gets loose with the driver, you're going to struggle here. It is very important that you keep that ball in the fairway. You've got to have ball control, because those greens will not accept anything out of the rough. So, yeah, I like 15 under.

MODERATOR: Kentucky's proud son, Kenny Perry, thank you very much.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.