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After being 'fed up' with golf and nearly retiring, rejuvenated Kenny Perry eyes second straight major title

Kenny Perry celebrates and waves his hat to the crowd after winning U.S. Senior Open Championship at Salem Country Club on July 2, 2017 in Peabody, Mass.
Kenny Perry celebrates and waves his hat to the crowd after winning U.S. Senior Open Championship at Salem Country Club on July 2, 2017 in Peabody, Mass. (Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

Kenny Perry developed a pattern on the final day of the U.S. Senior Open about two weeks ago.

Take a tee shot and walk straight down the fairway. Have a quick chat with caddie Ryan Cochran and pick a club for his iron shot. Repeat after every hole.

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"Normally, it's kind of jovial," Cochran said. "But it wasn't a whole lot of shenanigans going on or conversation, even."

Cochran watched as Perry used his "laser focus" for a two-shot win and his first major title in almost two years.

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Now the 56-year-old plans to continue that drive — and his rejuvenation a year removed from contemplating retirement — as he begins the Constellation Senior Players Championship on Thursday.

"My game has kind of been in disarray the last couple of years," said Perry, who starts the first round at 8:40 a.m. at Caves Valley Golf Club. "To finally get back at it and to break through with the win last week was eye-opening, for one. Very comforting. It just tells me I've still got enough in the tank to still be competitive and still win golf tournaments."

Senior golfers to watch at the Constellation Senior Players Championship at Caves Valley

Last summer, Perry didn't want to think about winning a tournament — much less playing one.

The Kentucky native was "fed up" with the sport because he hadn't had a break since turning professional.

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While most golfers have a few-year hiatus between the PGA Tour and becoming age-eligible for the PGA Tour Champions, Perry said, he was competitive through his late 40s.

At age 48, he was leading the 2009 Masters by two but bogeyed the final two holes and tied for second in a playoff.

The grind of the following years — and an inconsistent putt — wore on Perry, and he "completely quit" for two months.

He instead spent time with his six grandchildren and indulged in his hobbies with muscle cars, restoring old vehicles and drag racing. He vacationed at a lake house.

"I just kept beating myself against a wall," Perry said. "I just took a summer off, basically to see if there's anything left in the tank to come back out here."

Perry decided to return with a renewed commitment to training and conditioning.

Cochran recognized the "glimmer in his eye" when Perry tied for second, one shot behind John Daly, at the Insperity Invitational in Woodlands, Texas, in May.

"You just have peaks and valleys in the game," Cochran said. "He knew he almost had it."

What you need to know before the Constellation Energy Senior Players Championship

Then, a few days before the U.S. Senior Open began, Cochran's brother Reed saw Perry practicing alone and made a prediction.

"KP's going to win this weekend," Cochran remembers Reed proclaimed. "You watch."

"You're not going to do that unless you still love the game," Cochran added about Perry's individual work. "So that was good to see."

With that concentration and a new putter he acquired the night before the event began, Perry had a winning total of 16-under to break the event's 72-hole scoring record.

"The way Kenny's playing and the way he just played at the U.S. Senior Open," nine-time PGA Tour Champions winner Fred Funk said Tuesday, "he'll be the guy to watch, I think, on this golf course."

To do so, with hopes of claiming his fifth PGA Tour Champions major, Perry has emphasized efficient putting.

"I've been shooting a lot of 71s, 70s, 72s," Perry said. "Last week I shot some 64s and 65s, and that's the different between winning and finishing middle of the pack."

Leaving the tournament in Peabody, Mass., with a silver trophy and gold medal left Perry with a flashback to 2013, when he won his other U.S Senior Open. A few weeks later, he claimed the Senior Players Championship en route to becoming the PGA Tour Champions Player of the Year.

This time, he enters the event second in the Charles Schwab Cup standings as the tour's top earner behind Bernhard Langer, one of his groupmates for the first two rounds and the three-time defending Senior Players Championship winner.

Perry has battled a shoulder injury in recent months but hopes that doesn't disrupt his focus to knock off Langer and mirror that "magical" run four years ago.

"I got after it this year, started working hard, starting hitting a lot of balls again," Perry said. "All in all, it's been great. It definitely has been validated by working and getting back at it."

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