Scary aggressive: Perry T-2 at U.S. Senior Open
It isn’t over until it’s over.
It isn’t over until the fat lady sings.
It isn’t over until the last putt is holed.
And it isn’t over until Kenny Perry runs out of par-4s to drive.
Perry made his move Saturday at the U.S. Senior Open, starting the day 10 strokes behind 36-hole leader Michael Allen and then finishing just two strokes back of Allen after three rounds. Perry shot 6-under 64 while Allen carded a 72 at Omaha Country Club.
With one round remaining, Perry is tied for second with Fred Funk. In fourth place is Corey Pavin, four shots back.
Call him Scary Perry. Few other golfers are as fun to watch. He is spectacularly unpredictable. He can be brilliant, he can be awful, he can be a birdie machine, and he can be as wild as Charley Hoffman’s hair.
Perry is a swashbuckler. Here at the Senior Open, he is following a strategy used by no one else. He is attempting to drive the green on three par-4 holes in a five-hole stretch – Nos. 13, 15 and 17. Other players are laying up to avoid the thick rough, but Perry is banging away.
Question for Scary Perry: “Do you like those risk/reward holes?”
“I do,” he replied. “They’re fun to play. They can really change the outcome of the tournament. You can make up two shots in a hurry – a guy make par and your make eagle, or he makes bogey and you make birdie.
“But you can also make big numbers on those if it gets away from you. But they’re fun to play. I just like playing them. I like the challenge of trying to hit that driver on that green.”
Natural followup question: “Kenny, excuse me, but aren’t you trying to drive these greens because you can do it and nobody else can?” For the record, Perry is leading the field in driving distance with an average of 299 yards. Nobody else is close. John Huston, at 294.5, is second.
“I’ve been doing it all week,” Perry said. ‘I figure I can hack it out of the rough better way on up there as opposed to way back. That was my goal – just hit it as far up there as I can.”
Perry has not exactly been a fairway finder, missing more fairways than he has hit in the first three rounds. On the par-4 and par-5 holes, he has hit just 19 of 39 fairways. However, he has managed to hit 38 of 54 greens in regulation.
“I went from the outhouse to the penthouse,” Perry admitted. “I couldn’t do anything right yesterday (he shot 73), and I did everything right today.”
Not quite everything. He missed a few birdie putts. To be honest, Perry’s 6-under-par 64 could have been 59.
“Yes, it could have been a 59 today,” he agreed. “Birdied the first two holes right out of the gate, great start, kind of set the tone for the day. It was foot to the floor. I was trying to birdie every hole out there, and I had so many great opportunities. I mean, it was a phenomenal day.
“I hit it close all day. I hit a driver that landed two feet from the hole on 13 (a par-4) , and it went over the green, and I didn’t get that up-and-down. I missed some short putts today. It could have been 59.”
The yardages on the three driveable par-4s are 312 yards (13th hole), 398 (15th hole) and 319 (17th hole). Perhaps the 15th isn’t quite driveable, although Perry is giving it a rip anyway. In Saturday’s third round, after pars at Nos. 13 and 15, he birdied No. 17 from 4 feet.
Watching this guy play golf, you may have to pinch yourself to remember he is 52. He plays with the swagger of a young man half his age. Another Saturday feat: On the 540-yard 6th, a par-5, he hit a 9-iron second shot (yes, a 9-iron) to eight inches for a kick-in eagle.
Perry is paired with Allen for Sunday’s final round. Funk and Pavin comprise the penultimate group.
“If somebody had told me (before the tournament started) I would be leading by two strokes after 54 holes, I would have taken it,” Allen mused.
What he wouldn’t have taken was a sore, stiff neck that bothered him in the third round.
“It was kind of getting better on the back (nine),” he said. “But this morning, if Doc wasn't here, I couldn't have played today for sure. For a guy who's never had an injury, this has kind of been interesting for me, to see what guys have to go through.
“So I'm trying to get through it. It's still tight. I don't know what it is. We'll see. I may not play the British (Senior). I don't even know right now. I've just got to see how it goes, to be honest with you.”
That may be even scarier than Scary Perry. It should be a fascinating final round in the U.S. Senior Open.