Perry breezed home with a 68 Sunday, good enough for a 261 total at the par-70 Bank of America Classic. He had led the field by eight shots Saturday night, when he shot a 61, and won Sunday by seven.
The win wasnt without a hint of drama, though. Justin Leonard was in sight of the elusive 59 score, putting him within shouting distance of Mr. Perry. But Leonard bogeyed the final hole and took a 61. Perry held the ship together and wasnt really in danger of losing, coming home in a gallop to win his fifth PGA Tour victory at age 42.
This one is really special, said Perry. To win like this on a tough golf course with a lot of tradition and a lot of history, Mr. Hogans place, its pretty neat for me to finally get five.
I cant say enough for how I felt this week. I was very calm, very relaxed, and it was easy. I dont know why, why this week, why I pushed the right buttons. But for me this week, I was very comfortable and I was enjoying what I was doing out there. Normally, Im pretty stressed out and under a lot of pressure, but for some reason, I was able to defeat those demons and still relax and go out there and play great golf.
Leonard began the day too far back to seriously contend, though his 61 ' matching Perrys Saturday score ' left him alone in second place. He shot a 29 of the front side, and after three more birdies coming home through the 15th, he had it at 9-under.
A birdie at 17 left him at 10-under, one shy of the magical figure of 59. But a bogey on 18 when he was between an 8- or a 9-iron ruined his chances.
It was a lot of fun, said Leonard. I really ' after I birdied 15, I was thinking about it. I had to birdie two more holes, and I made a nice up-and-down at 16. I hit a good shot into 17 and made that putt.
I hit a good drive on 18. And unfortunately, I got down there and I kind of got stuck between two clubs. I think I had 143 (yards), between an 8- and a 9-iron. We just felt like the wind had died down just enough, and knowing that the adrenaline was running, I tried to kind of shut a 9-iron down and hook it in there. And it didnt work out.
Perry said a 59, even on a par-70 course, is a near-impossibility. There have only been three on the PGA Tour, by Al Geiberger, Chip Beck and David Duval, and getting a fourth will be extremely difficult.
I think its a score thats almost unobtainable, he said after his sparkling round Saturday. Its just a perfect round of golf, if you can shoot 59. I was able to do it in a mini-tour event back home (in Kentucky).
But it wasnt a tour event, by any means. But it just shows its a perfect round, if youre mentally focused for 18 holes. You dont get in the way of yourself. And I was able to relax and be free and able to attack on every hole.
Perry is 42, keeping alive the skein of successes that the over-40 crowd has enjoyed this year.
The rookies had it last year, said Perry. Were fighting back this year. You know what? A lot of the guys keep themselves in good shape now. And with equipment and technology, were all hitting it plenty far enough. And I think with the older fellows, its a matter of having a little discipline, getting out there working at it a little bit.
Hal Suttons had a great career. Jeff Sluman has had a great career. Its just a matter of motivation that guys have to want to win.
The 19-under winning score is an aberration for this course, a tournament record at a place where usually 10- to 12-under wins. But it was a very unusual week with rains softening the course Tuesday and Wednesday and then a lack of wind once the tournament started. And Sunday, with a threat of thunderstorms, the decision was made to play lift, clean and place.
I love this golf course, said Leonard. The thing you have to remember is, this week it played soft. Normally, the ball is running another 30, 40 yards. So its a 7,000-yard golf course that actually plays much shorter than that.
You hit a lot of 1-irons, a lot of 3-woods off the tee. I think this is a very difficult course.
And though the spotlight was on Leonard Sunday, Leonard made sure to deflect it back on Perry.
I think Kenny Perry won this golf tournament yesterday (Saturday), said Leonard, in shooting the round that he did (61). I wouldnt think that this golf course would normally suit Kenny very well, because hes a high-ball hitter, predominantly left to right. But this weeks been different. Its definitely Kennys week.
'The most important thing,' said Perry, 'is the respect from my peers. I've always been a player under the radar - not a superstar, but just a good, solid player. To get this 'W,' it feels good at my age.'