The Man from Franklin

By Adam BarrSeptember 27, 2008, 4:00 pm
Ah, smell that fall air. The leaves are turning, the apples are coming in. And its time to think about golfs story of the year.
Nothing against the remaining tournaments on the schedule, but the pace slows appreciably after the Ryder Cup. This year especially, with the FedEx Cup winner decided early, Tiger Woods not playing in the Tour Championship, and no other substantial competitions coming, were definitely in the cool-down that follows the hard run of the mid-season.
Kenny Perry
Kenny Perry achieved his dream and more this season. (Getty Images)
No one could be blamed for setting up the Tiger U.S. Open saga as a lock for story of the year. With Rocco Mediate as an engaging co-star and Tigers ACL as the villain (and later, the stress fractures tossed in for added evil), this is a hard one to beat. Another good entry is Anthony Kim, with his two wins, his Ryder Cup performance, and his immense confidence in a world that everyone else seems to have handed over to Tiger. Off-course, theres the whole LPGA/English language fiasco.
But in this year of nominations and elections, my candidate is Kenny Perry.
Heres a guy whos more regular than the gas you used to put in a 69 Camaro. At age 48, he has about as many miles on him, too. Not a classic golf swing, to be sure ' but a very effective right-to-left trajectory. Talk about confidence, though. While we were all watching football games and nursing hangovers New Years Day, Perry was setting a goal. He would make the Ryder Cup team, play in front of his home crowd in Kentucky ' and contribute. He knew it was likely his last chance at this kind of accomplishment, and he took it.
And look what happened. Perry succeeded in a way that has to warm the heart of any true sports fan. But what Kenny Perry understood first and best, so well that he had to wait for the rest of the golf and sports world to catch up, is that setting a goal has a down side. It involves sacrifice. It requires you to smile (sometimes grimace) and ignore the golf pundits, gathered in groups like Saturday foursomes backed up on the first par-3 on an overcrowded Muni. They presumed to harangue Perry for not playing in major championships when he knew it would be better to skip them to manage his schedule toward the goal. You think Perry didnt want to play in our national championship? Sure, he doesnt like the course at Torrey Pines. But the man is as big a patriot as golf has; he understood very well the American pride that attaches to a U.S. Open. But the goal, the single-minded goal
He would not waver, not even when the worst rub-of-the-green of the season robbed him of a chance at victory in Atlanta. In a playoff against Ryuji Imada, Perrys ball rocketed right (what?), hit a tree, and motorcycled across the green and into the pond by the 18th green. Perry was left to stand in the fairway, asking caddie Fred Sanders, Where is it? Where is it? while the TV microphones picked up the shock in his voice. Afterward, he beat a hasty retreat from the scoring trailer with his wife Sandy, needing a moment to compose himself before meeting the press. Dream over, right? Thanks for playing.
Not on your Kentucky life. Two weeks later, Perry was hoisting the trophy at Muirfield Village, winner of the Jack Nicklauss Memorial Tournament over a windy, difficult golf course that he still managed to carve up with that aggressive draw and a solid week of putting. He was driving the ball like Kenny Perry again, confidently and in the fairway and longer than he had 20 years ago. And when he had to make putts, he did. He shot 69 the final day and survived a bogey on 17; this after a disheartening, bogey-pocked 74 in Saturdays third round.
And that was just the beginning. He was ready near Detroit when Woody Austin faltered, and he notched his second win at the Buick Open. He felt the pressure of a rapidly moving calendar at the John Deere, but stepped up anyway, beating Jay Williamson and Brad Adamonis in a playoff for his third trophy of the year. It was the second time in his career he has won three tournaments in a season (2003).
Open Championship? No thanks; dont need the travel. And Kenny had committed to Milwaukee the same week (he won there in 2003). Man of his word. At the PGA Championship in Detroit (heck; thats close enough to Kentucky), his only major of the year, Perry had an eye problem that was bad enough to make him withdraw ' this with the Ryder Cup, his goal, in sight, and his position on the team secured. What if he did all that work ' and had to sit because of he scratched cornea while taking out a contact lens? The feeling in the pit of his stomach must have been dismal.
Not that we ever knew. He never complained. He never bemoaned bad breaks. He never crowed about his progress. Through a happy accident of the schedule, I was the lead Golf Channel reporter at all three of his victories this year. If we reporters asked him about his goals, he would tell us, proudly. But otherwise, it was the usual quiet, pleasant Kenny. Off weeks back in Franklin, Ky., working the counter at his golf course, spending family time, and piling on smiles in the little town where hes a hero but doesnt act like one. No swing doc, no head guy, no entourage. Just Kenny.
Its so rare in sports these days, this lack of self-importance, as to be quaint. Were so conditioned, so resigned to overblown salaries, $9 beers at the stadium, endorsements, seat licenses and such that a guy just setting a goal and doing the work is an anomaly.
Call it an anomaly if you want. I call it an example.
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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.

Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.

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Garcia cruises to five-shot win in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:10 pm

SINGAPORE - Sergio Garcia played 27 holes on the last day without dropping a shot to win the Singapore Open by five strokes Sunday in an ominous display of his newfound self-belief as he prepares to defend his Masters title.

Still brimming with confidence after claiming his first major title at Augusta National last year, Garcia started his new season with a runaway victory at the Sentosa Golf Club, finishing at 14-under 270.

Returning to the course just after dawn to complete his third round after play was suspended on Saturday because of lightning strikes, Garcia finished his last nine holes in 4 under for a round of 66 to take a one-shot lead into the final round.

With organizers desperate to avert the constant threat of more bad weather and finish the tournament on time, Garcia promptly returned to the first tee shortly after and fired a flawless 3-under 68, cruising to victory with 10 straight pars as his rivals floundered in the stifling humidity.

''It may have looked easy, but it wasn't easy. You still have to hit a lot of good shots out there,'' Garcia said. ''It's always great to start with a win, to do it here at this golf course against a good field in Asia on conditions that weren't easy. Hopefully I can ride on this momentum.''

Garcia's closest rivals at the end were Japan's Satoshi Kodaira (71) and South African Shaun Norris (70). Both birdied the last hole to share second spot but neither was ever close enough on the last day to challenge the leader.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

''I could not reach Sergio. I was thinking, 12 or 13 under for the win, but he went beyond that,'' Kodaira said.

Jazz Janewattananond (71) and his fellow Thai Danthai Bonnma (73) finished equal fourth at 8 under, earning themselves a spot in this year's British Open, while American Sean Crocker, who was given an invitation to the event after turning pro late last year, also won a place at Carnoustie by finishing in a tie for sixth.

Garcia made just three bogeys in 72 holes and his victory provided the 38-year-old with the 33rd title of his professional career and his sixth on the Asian Tour.

He has also won three titles in the last 12 months, including the Masters, and his game looks to be in better shape now than it was a year ago.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for Augusta National because of the steamy conditions and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament, which is regularly stopped because of inclement weather.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore a year ago, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

"I'm extremely happy with how the week went. It was a tough day and a tough week, with the stopping and going. Fortunately, the weather held on. Still, it was hard to play 27 holes under this heat and I can't wait to get a cold shower,'' Garcia said. ''I came with some good confidence and wishing that I will play well. I hit the ball solid the whole week and didn't miss many shots.''

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Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.