Perry still trying to prove a point

By Associated PressJuly 30, 2008, 4:00 pm
WGC-Bridgestone - 125wAKRON, Ohio ' For more than two decades, no one ever paid much attention to Kenny Perry unless he happened to be holding the trophy at the end of the week. Few players have won 12 times and nearly $26 million so quietly.
But there is no avoiding the attention now.
Perry has won three times in his last six starts, with two other top 10s. What brought him as many headlines, however, was his decision to skip the British Open and stick to his original road map that would lead him to the Ryder Cup in his native Kentucky.
He was vilified for turning his back on a chance to win a major, and even some of his fellow Americans privately expressed disdain that Perry would duck the best players in the world. More amazing than a 47-year-old making the Ryder Cup team is that Perry has done this without having played in three majors or two World Golf Championships.
But instead of the spotlight causing him to cower, it has emboldened him.
Ive always run from it, to tell you the truth, Perry said Wednesday at the Bridgestone Invitational. Ive always been trying to hide from attention. But this year, for some reason, I feel like I can prove a point. It may not happen. I may fall flat on my face that week. It may be too much pressure, too much burden that I cant handle it. I dont know.
But Im still going to enjoy it.
In his new role as a maverick, Perry is among the favorites at Firestone when the $8 million WGC event begins on Thursday with 80 players from around the world who qualified by winning select tournaments, being among the top 50 in the world or having played in the most recent Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup team.
It will be the first significant event at Firestone without Tiger Woods since 1996, when he was winning his third straight U.S. Amateur. Woods is the three-time defending champion at the Bridgestone Invitational, where he has won six times.
Everybody will just move up one place from where they finished in the past, Stewart Cink said of Woods absence as the worlds No. 1 player recovers from season-ending knee surgery.
Padraig Harrington will be making his first start since winning the British Open at Royal Birkdale. Phil Mickelson, who won at Firestone in 1996 when it was the World Series of Golf, is energized about the final two months of the season.
Perry is considered among the favorites, and for good reason.
A streaky player his entire career, his fortunes began turning with a fluke loss in Atlanta, when his fairway metal to the 18th green on the TPC Sugarloaf ricocheted off a tree, across the green and into the water during a playoff.
I didnt get too down on it because I knew my game was coming back to where I was getting competitive again, he said.
Two weeks later, he won the Memorial. Four weeks later, he won the Buick Open. And then he made it two straight victories when he won the John Deere Classic.
The buzz with Perry turned out to be the tournament he didnt play.
Kenny Perry is his own guy, Cink said. He didnt want to go to the British, so he didnt go. In a way, you have to admire that. He didnt back down and change his schedule. But who knows how many more chances Kenny is going to have to win the British Open?
Through all criticism, Perry has found some comedy.
In 22 years, nobody has ever cared where I played golf, Perry said with a laugh.
The difficult part now is paying attention to the five tournaments he plays before the Ryder Cup. It starts with the Bridgestone Invitational, on a South Course at Firestone that is much tamer than last year.
Instead of rough up to the ankles, which caused shots to squirt sideways and left only one player under par, the rough is a moderate 3 inches and rain has softened the fairways and greens.
Perry has never won a WGC event, although he came close three years ago when he had a two-shot lead over Woods at the turn, only to bogey five out of six holes and tie for sixth.
I got the fist pumps put on me, Perry said.
These days, he is getting more than just fists. Perry has relished in the reaction from some of the players who are trying to capture the potion that has enabled him to win so much this summer. They are touching him for luck, even rubbing his golf clubs.
Its just been magical to have it fall together the way it did, Perry said.
The most meaningful praise has come from Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger, one of the few who had no qualms with Perry skipping the British Open to play in Milwaukee.
Hes in a great place in his life, Azinger said Wednesday. Hes second on the money list, he has a chance to win the FedExCup, hes playing in the Ryder Cup. Most guys who get to this age are having a mid-life crisis. He could win the money title.
Perry has digested all the criticism over the last month about his British Open absence and turned it into motivation that he hopes will last through the Ryder Cup.
I love stuff like that, he said. I love when people tell me I cant do something, because Im going to prove you wrong. Im kind of a low-key, easygoing guy, and I need stuff like that. When I get something burning in my belly a little bit, it just inspires me to work a little bit hard. And at my age, I need that.
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    Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta

    By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 8:31 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.

    Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.

    Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.

    So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.

    How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:

    1. Stay healthy

    So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.

    Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.

    Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.

    2. Figure out his driver

    Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.

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    That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.

    In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.

    Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron. 

    Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”

    That won’t be the case at Augusta.

    3. Clean up his iron play

    As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.

    At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.

    Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.

    That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.

    Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”

    4. Get into contention somewhere

    As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.

    In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.

    “I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”

    Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.

    And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go. 

    “It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”

    Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.

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    Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 8:01 pm

    Although The Players isn’t golf’s fifth major, it received a boost in that direction this week.

    The PGA of America has adjusted its criteria for eligibility into the PGA Championship, extending an exemption for the winner of The Players to three years.

    According to an official with the PGA of America, the association felt the winner of The Players deserved more than a single-year exemption, which had been the case, and the move is consistent with how the PGA Tour’s annual flagship event is treated by the other majors.

    Winners of The Players were already exempt for three years into the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.

    The change will begin with this year’s PGA Championship.

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    Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:52 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas may be going from the frying pan to the fire of Tiger Woods’ pairings.

    Translation: He’s going from being grouped with Woods last week in the first two rounds at the Genesis Open to being grouped directly in front of Woods this week at the Honda Classic.

    “Which might be even worse than playing with him,” Thomas said Wednesday.

    Typically, the pairing in front of Woods deals with a lot of gallery movement, with fans racing ahead to get in position to see Woods’ next shot.

    Thomas was quoted after two rounds with Tiger at Riviera saying fans “got a little out of hand,” and saying it’s disappointing some golf fans today think it’s “so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots.”

    With 200,000 fans expected this week at the Honda Classic, and with the Goslings Bear Trap pavilion setting a party mood at the 16th green and 17th tee, that portion of the course figures to be quite lively at PGA National.

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    Thomas was asked about that.

    “I touched on this a little bit last week,” Thomas said. “I think it got blown out of proportion, was just taken out of context, and worded differently than how I said it or meant it.

    “I love the fans. The fans are what I hope to have a lot of, what all of us hope to have a lot of. We want them cheering us on. But it's those certain fans that are choosing to yell at the wrong times, or just saying stuff that's completely inappropriate.”

    Thomas said it’s more than ill-timed shouts. It’s the nature of some things being said.

    “It's one thing if it's just you and I talking, but when you're around kids, when you're around women, when you're around families, or just around people in general, some of the stuff they are saying to us is just extremely inappropriate,” he said. “There’s really no place for it anywhere, especially on a golf course.

    “I feel like golf is pretty well known as a classy sport, not that other sports aren't, but it has that reputation.”

    Thomas said the nature of the 17th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course makes it a more difficult tee shot than the raucous 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Typically, players like to hear fans get into the action before or after they hit shots. Ill-timed bluster, however, makes a shot like the one at Honda’s 17th even tougher.

    “That hole is hard enough,” Thomas said. “I don't need someone yelling in my ear on my backswing that I'm going to hit it in the water, to make it any harder. I hope it gets better, just for the sake of the game. That's not helping anything. That's not helping grow the game.”

    Those who follow golf know an ill-timed shout in a player’s backswing is different than anything a fan says at a football, basketball or baseball game. An ill-timed comment in a backswing has a greater effect on the outcome of a competition.

    “Just in terms of how much money we're playing for, how many points we're playing for ... this is our jobs out here, and you hate to somehow see something that a fan does, or something that they yell, influence something that affects [a player’s] job,” Thomas said.

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    Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:21 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.

    McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.

    “Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said.  “That's what he said.”

    The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.

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    The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.

    “He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”