Perry Back from Injury to Defend Title

By Associated PressMay 17, 2006, 4:00 pm
2006 Bank of America ColonialFORT WORTH, Texas -- Kenny Perry was laid up in bed recovering from knee surgery two months ago, forced to watch the Bay Hill Invitational on television instead of being there to defend his title.
 
'It was just disgusting,' Perry said. 'I didn't even go back and get to enjoy being the defending champion. I was laying there thinking, 'I've got to somehow get back to Colonial.''
 
Perry made it back to Hogan's Alley this week for the 60th anniversary of the Colonial, where in 2005 he won in record-setting fashion for the second time in three years.
 
The 45-year-old Perry had surgery to repair cartilage in his right knee March 14, the same week of Bay Hill. He skipped nine tournaments before returning to make the cut and tie for 34th at the Byron Nelson Championship last week.
 
'My game's kind of rusty, my short game's not there. But you know what, I'm here, I want to enjoy the week,' Perry said. 'I love Colonial. I always feel like I'm at home when I'm here.'
 
The traditional par-70, 7,054-yard layout certainly has fit Perry's game.
 
Perry won by seven strokes last year at 19-under 261 even though he was having some vision problems. That matched the Colonial scoring record he set in 2003 when his six-stroke victory was overshadowed by Annika Sorenstam being the first woman in 58 years to play on the PGA Tour.
 
Hogan's Alley has changed little since its namesake was the only golfer to win consecutive Colonials -- and five-time champion Ben Hogan did that twice more than a half-century ago (1946-47, 1952-53). There are tree-lined fairways, plenty of doglegs and some difficult par 3s on the longest-serving host course for the PGA Tour.
 
'It's an old-style golf course where you need to shape your shots and you can't just get out there and bomb it, and go find it and hit it again,' Dean Wilson said.
 
'It's just a wonderful place,' two-time Colonial champion Ben Crenshaw said Wednesday. 'It's always been a fascinating test of golf. You have to shape shots. You have to play golf.'
 
Crenshaw, who won the tournament in 1977 and 1990, came back to the Colonial for the first time since 2002 to be part of the 60th anniversary. The Masters is the only other non-Champions Tour event the 54-year-old Crenshaw has played in this year.
 
'This is a special year. I thought if I was going to play it again, this might be the year,' Crenshaw said. 'If I hit the ball solid, I can do OK here. I want to give it one last shot.'
 
This will be Crenshaw's 33rd Colonial. He has missed the cut six straight times since tying for sixth in 1996 for his eighth top-10 finish. None of the golfers who won prior to 1977 are here.
 
Among Crenshaw's favorite memories were getting to visit with Hogan and watch him practice.
 
There is also a more painful reminder: an arthritic big right toe.
 
After a three-putt on the par-3 16th hole during the third round in 1979, Crenshaw said he made 'full contact' when he angrily kicked an oil barrel being used as a garbage can. He said he still has hip and back problems because of that toe.
 
'It was a self-inflicted injury right here,' Crenshaw said. 'I've thought about it a million times. I sure would like to have that one back.'
 
Crenshaw, Perry and Corey Pavin (1985, 1996) are among 10 former Colonial champions playing this week. But Perry and 2004 champion Steve Flesch are the only winners since 2000 playing.
 
Phil Mickelson, the 2000 Colonial champion, is skipping along with the other players ranked in the top four in the world: Tiger Woods, Retief Goosen and Vijay Singh. Fifth-ranked Jim Furyk is at the Colonial after missing the cut at the Nelson last week.
 
Perry has nine victories in his 20 full-time PGA Tour seasons. His 2003 Colonial victory was his fifth, and he has four more in the three years since. So how about another?
 
'Really, it's going to be hard for me to win,' said Perry, saying his knee is 80 percent. 'But I know this golf course great. I've got a lot of local knowledge.
 
'So you know what, if I could somehow get off to a good start, and somehow get close to the leaders, then I'll start thinking, I've got a shot here again,' he said. 'That magic may show back up.'
 
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