Notes: Perry remembers shot that changed his life

By Doug FergusonJune 9, 2015, 9:53 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio – One more putt would have given Kenny Perry two extra days on the PGA Tour, though it wouldn't have changed a thing.

He wanted the Memorial to be his final PGA Tour event, and whether that ended on Friday or Sunday was irrelevant.

The Memorial was the first of his 14 career victories in 1991, and it proved that he belonged among the best players. Even so, he never imagined playing nearly 30 years without ever losing his card until he was on the Champions Tour.

He had two close calls in the majors. He won a Ryder Cup in his home state of Kentucky. And he ended his PGA Tour career at age 54 with just over $32 million in earnings.

The money is worth mentioning because Perry didn't have the $5,000 to pay for Q-school.

He was 26, married with two children, and already had failed Q-school twice. That's when Ronnie Ferguson, an elder at his church, agreed to pay his entry fee on one condition. If he failed, there was no need for Perry to repay him. If he made it, he asked Perry to give back 5 percent of his earnings. Perry set up a scholarship fund at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee, where Ferguson once played college golf.

''I always told my dad if I could win just one time, I've made it,'' Perry said. ''To be able to survive 30 years out here competitively and not lose my card, I'm very proud of that. I'm a slow learner. I had some great moments really late in my career.''

He won 11 times in his 40s, and in the year before he turned 50, he finished at No. 5 on the money list.

Of all the highlights, one that stood out came in his rookie season in 1987. In the Panasonic Las Vegas Invitational, his seventh event of the season, he hit a 4-iron to a foot on the final hole for a tap-in eagle.

''I remember Lee Trevino was announcing at the time, and that gave me enough money to solidify my card my rookie year,'' Perry said. ''It was a lot of money for me. That one shot I'll never forget. I still feel it to this day. Magical shot, you know?''

Las Vegas had more prize money than all four majors and was only topped by a new tournament on the schedule now called the Tour Championship. That eagle gave Perry a tie for fourth and he earned $55,000, which was just over half his money for the year. He wound up with $107,239 to finish 93rd on the money list.

Perry, meanwhile, never put his name on the scholarship fund. It's still known as the Simpson County (Ky.) Scholarship Fund. And it's still growing. Perry already has won over $6 million since joining the Champions Tour.

MILLER TIME: Johnny Miller will be at the U.S. Open for a 21st consecutive year. You just won't hear him, and probably won't see him.

Miller said he would be at Chambers Bay on Saturday and Sunday as part of a corporate function with Lexus.

''It's going to be weird being there and not working, I can tell you that,'' Miller said Monday from Omaha, Nebraska, where he was doing a Lexus outing to raise money for a Catholic high school. ''It is what it is. I can say for me to cover a U.S. Open at Chambers Bay would have been a little different, anyway.''

During the 20 years that NBC Sports televised the U.S. Open, Miller had played majors at most of the venues (he didn't play Bethpage Black of Congressional, to name a few exceptions). Chambers Bay only opened eight years ago.

''Maybe it will be a good championship,'' Miller said.

OPEN TIDBITS: Maybe this U.S. Open could be called amateur hour.

After the final stage of qualifying on Monday, 17 amateurs are part of the field at Chambers Bay. Three were previously exempt through amateur criteria, and 14 made it through qualifying. The USGA said it was the highest number of amateurs since 1981.

Meanwhile, nine players made it to the U.S. Open by qualifying for the second straight year - four from the qualifier in England, four from the United States and Liang Wenchong in the Asia qualifier.

There's still a chance for players in the FedEx St. Jude Classic to move (or stay) in the top 60 in the world and get to Chambers Bay. Andy Sullivan of England is No. 56 and Kevin Kisner is at No. 57. Neither are playing this week. Kisner tweaked his back on his first shot he took on the range Thursday at the Memorial, though he said it felt better by Sunday. He withdrew from the qualifier and said if he falls out of the top 60, he probably could use a week off, anyway.

Steven Bowditch (No. 64) and Harris English (No. 68) also are playing the St. Jude Classic.

JACK & JOHNNY: Johnny Miller has been selected to be honored next year at the Memorial. Tournament host Jack Nicklaus also said that two-time Masters champion Horton Smith and two-time PGA champion Leo Diegel would be honored posthumously.

Miller, known in this generation for his blunt talk in the NBC Sports tower, is a two-time major champion and a fierce rival to Nicklaus in the 1970s. They spend more time fishing these days than playing golf.

''Johnny was very thrilled,'' Nicklaus said. ''He says, 'You've got to be kidding.' I said, 'If you hadn't caught that fish when we were together, we probably wouldn't have done it.' In case you don't understand that, I take Johnny fishing occasionally.''

Miller, 68, attributed it to age.

''They've run out of the good players,'' he said with a laugh. ''Now they're down to Johnny Miller.''

RODGERS & OUT: Patrick Rodgers had more margin for error than he realized at the time, but his finish was no less impressive. Leaking oil on the back nine at the Memorial, and needing only nine FedEx Cup points for special temporary membership on the PGA Tour, he birdied the last two holes to make it easily.

Rodgers, from the same high school class that produced Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas (he and Thomas are roommates in Florida), was already set for his PGA Tour card next year. He still is No. 6 on the Tour money list, and the top 25 are assured cards. But anything can happen in Q-school, as Kevin Tway found out a few years ago when he plunged down the priority list.

Getting his temporary membership at Memorial was big.

Not only does Rodgers get unlimited exemptions - he is in the St. Jude Classic this week and the Travelers the week after the U.S. Open - he can secure a card by finishing the equivalent of 125th or higher in either the FedEx Cup or the money list. That would give him priority over the Tour graduates, and he could bank on full status for the entire season.

DIVOTS: Morgan Pressel and Suzann Pettersen round out the 20-player field for the CVS Charity Classic on June 29-30. The event hosted by Brad Faxon and Billy Andrade has raised more than $18 million for New England charities. ... Ridgewood Country Club, part of the rotation that hosts The Barclays during the FedEx Cup playoffs, will host the U.S. Girls Junior in 2016. ... Sunday was a big week for Idaho. Boise natives Tyler Aldridge won on the Tour and Madeleine Sheils on the Symetra Tour.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Only twice in the past 10 years has a player won a PGA Tour event without making a birdie in the final round. Both happened at the St. Jude Classic (Justin Leonard in 2005, Ben Crane in 2014).

FINAL WORD: ''I look at it this way. It's about getting reps. I got a lot of reps this weekend.'' - Tiger Woods, on his 85-74 weekend at the Memorial to finish in last place for the first time in his career.

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Ortiz takes Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x