2005: PGA - Understated Perry proves few are better

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Fort Worth, Texas

There are a number of reasons people should start giving Kenny Perry just a smidgen more attention.

A few:

He blew away the field with a record-setting victory May 22 at the Colonial, where he began the final round with a seven-stroke lead – his eventual margin of victory. His 19-under 261 matched his own tournament record, set when he won at Hogan’s Alley two years ago. Perry finished with the best 72-hole total and largest victory margin on Tour this season, and is only the 10th multiple winner in the tournament’s 60-year history.

He is the fourth multiple winner on the PGA Tour this year, joining heavyweights Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson. (Woods, Singh, Mickelson, Perry . . . which name surprises you?) Often there is discussion of the “Big Four” that includes Ernie Els, who has not won on Tour this season, putting him a couple behind Perry. And when stretching just a bit further, there have been questions as to why Retief Goosen – he of one 2005 PGA Tour victory – shouldn’t be included to make it the “Big Five.” Meanwhile, Perry just keeps winning golf tournaments.

He’s a money-maker. He has made $2,411,063 this year, fifth on the money list – a total more than $1 million higher than Goosen and nearly $1.5 million more than Els (both of whom have fewer starts). His career earnings total is $18,320,240, 11th on the all-time list.

His longevity is among the best on Tour. It was the ninth career victory for Perry, who won just three titles in his first 16 seasons. Along with another plaid jacket at the Colonial, he won $1 million, pushing his career earnings at the tournament to $2.6 million. His six victories since his 40th birthday put him ahead of Nick Price and Mark O’Meara, and ties him with Loren Roberts and Hal Sutton– active players whose post-40 success gets bandied about as much or more than the 44-year-old Perry’s. Among active players, only Singh has won more events since turning 40 (15).

“I hit the ball better when I was young, but course management and my thinking and how relaxed and how comfortable I am on the golf course is so much different,” Perry said.

Perry’s long-lasting success, and where it places him in the PGA Tour’s pecking order, probably surprises most. But the relative anonymity is part of the Perry package. His quiet and unassuming nature neither requires nor nurtures the spotlight.

Sometimes, even when Perry wins, the publicity churners have other stories on their minds.

Take, for instance, the 2003 Colonial. Perry won the tournament, matched the course record with a third-round 61, set the tournament record at 19 under, yet still wasn’t the top story of the week. That honor belonged to a player who didn’t even make the cut. Annika Sorenstam played Colonial two years ago, becoming the first woman in 58 years to play on the Tour.

“It was Annika's week the first time,” he said. “This week it was my week. So it’s 50-50 now.”

This time, Perry had to settle for matching his tournament scoring record.

“I wanted to finish 20 under,” said Perry, who ruined that chance with a double bogey Sunday on No. 17. “But that’s OK, I tied my own record. That’s pretty special. I just wanted to win again.”

Perry closed with a 1-under 69. His seven-stroke lead heading into the final round is a 54-hole margin no Tour player has squandered.

“I felt like the guy who was pitching a no-hitter,” Perry said. “Nobody wanted to talk to me. They wanted to stay as far away from me as they could. They would look at me and walk away, which I understood. They didn’t want to jinx me or whatever.”

No worries: This Colonial belonged to Perry.

“My golf swing was on the money, my swing was good, and my rhythm was good, and my pace was good, and my putter was good,” Perry said. “It’s scary how close the two (Colonial victories) were. I had a lot going my way both weeks.”

Billy Mayfair (final-round 66) was a distant second, matching his best finish since losing in a five-hole playoff to Jose Coceres at the MCI Heritage in 2001. David Toms (66), Joe Durant (66) and Peter Lonard (69) tied for third at 11-under 269. Bernhard Langer (67) was among seven golfers another stroke back.

Perry had an opening 65 – at that point his best round this year. He followed with 63, breaking the Colonial’s 36-hole scoring record at 12 under, then shot a 64 on Saturday to break the 54-hole scoring record at 18 under. He played 53 consecutive bogey-free holes — from his 17th hole in Round 1 to No. 17 on Sunday.

If there’s any justice, the world is taking notice.

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