The Perks of Success

By Mercer BaggsMarch 25, 2003, 5:00 pm
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Craig Perks is a long way removed from the days when his only recognizable feature was the name on his golf bag.
That was more evident than ever when he arrived at The Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass and saw my ugly face on all the posters.
It all changed for Perks in the span of an hour. Quicker than you can say 3-2-4. That was the 36-year-old Kiwis finish to capture the 2002 Players Championship.
Tiger Woods said about the final stretch of holes at Sawgrass: Anything can happen on the last three holes. Thats where all the drama unfolds.
But never had the course, the tournament, or anyone watching ever witnessed what transpired a year ago.
After bogeying the 15th to fall one back of Stephen Ames, Perks chipped-in from 20 feet for eagle at the par-5 16th, made a 28-foot birdie putt on the perilous par-3 17th, and chipped-in for par at the par-4 finishing hole.
The result, a two-stroke victory and instant celebrity.
What I did not expect when I walked in this room Sunday, a year ago, was to get the attention that I would get, Perks said as he sat down in the interview room again on Tuesday.
I have the utmost respect now for the best players in the world who have to deal it. Its difficult. Its really hard to have that many demands on your time and still try and give your best effort you can on the golf course.
Having reached heights never imagined, Perks had two choices: become complacent or try to improve.
He chose the latter.
It was, in fact, a simple decision to make. For years he had wanted to make a change in his swing to become more consistent.
I was really sick and tired of being sick and tired about my game, he said.
Sick and tired of missing the cut well over 50 percent of the time, as he had done on the PGA Tour the previous two years. Sick and tied of having only two or three good events a year.
A friend once told me that insanity is doing the same things and expecting different results, and thats what Ive done for nine years, said the nine-time Q-School participant.
His problems were on full display in last years final round. He hit only four fairways that Sunday, nearly knocked his approach shot in the water at 16 and couldnt hit the green at 18 even after laying up from the rough.
'I knew a change had to be made,' said Perks, who also switched from Taylor Made to Titleist clubs this year.
Perks Players perks included fame and $1,080,000, but even more important was the five-year tour exemption. It finally gave Perks some security, and a chance to make the desired adjustments.
Without the win I probably never would have done it, he said. Basically, to get better youve got take steps back.
And Perks certainly couldnt take that chance while he was grinding, year in and year out, on the Nationwide and PGA tours, just trying to keep his card and earn a living.
The win afforded me a chance to really become a far better golfer.
In his search to find the proper swing coach, his current caddie, former mini-tour player Rod Erb, introduced Perks to Steve Aumock, a Dallas-based instructor who had been tutored by Hank Haney.
In a nutshell, I want to be on one plane or parallel to it at all times. My golf swing got very vertical in the middle of it and I had to kind of flatten out and catch up. Now its a little bit more rounded out, he described.
Ive been trying to do something in my golf swing, actually trying to flatten my left wrist, and within two swings we had it as good as Id ever had it.
Perks added that he wasn't dissatisfied with his previous coach, but that he needed someone to be there for him at tour events.
'Steve is 100 percent in my corner, will really drop anything at the drop of a hat to come be at tournament sites,' he said.
Several players have tried to improve upon success by changing their swings. Some have succeeded (see Tiger Woods); some have failed (see Seve Ballesteros).
For Perks, the options were easy to weigh.
It would have been a risk for me to stay where I was at, he said. I didnt want to be one of those players that had one great week and no one ever heard of again.
A year ago, Tiger Woods handed him the Waterford crystal trophy and said, Youre unbelievable.
Perks still blushes when reminded of that. He holds Woods in great regard, and said part of his swing metamorphosis has been observing the worlds No. 1.
Im not sure if I personally can get to that level, but I want to get as close as I can, Perks said. So weve studied it and Ive tried to do a lot of things in my golf swing that he does, as well. I dont know if Ill ever get there but Ill sure try.
Its certainly not a quick fix. Perks said he started to make the changes around the time of last years PGA Championship -- disappointed that he wasn't able to capitalize on his Players momentum. Since then, he has missed eight cuts in 14 starts and hasnt fared better than tied for 13th.
Thats a vastly different road than the one he traveled to Ponte Vedra Beach in 2002. Last year, he entered The Players having made all seven cuts on the season, with a tie for fifth at Doral.
Last year I was on a pretty decent roll, he said when asked to compare the two timetables. This year I think my game is actually in better shape, but the results certainly arent there.
Im just starting to see the benefits of (the swing change) now, but I think the changes I made were really needed for me to get up to that next level and compete out here week in and week out.
Perks may not become the first player in tournament history to successfully defend his title, but he wants to make sure hell have several opportunities to win it again in the future.
My wife and I still pinch ourselves saying: 'Is this really true?' Perks said. We look at each other and she looks at me and says: 'You are the Players champion.' Its pretty special.

Look out for a couple of veterans this week at The Players Championship.
Nick Price (the 1993 champ) has five consecutive top-10 finishes (and a
record-tying nine overall) in the event, while Scott Hoch enters with a
streak that includes five top-10 finishes in his last seven starts at the
TPC at Sawgrass.
No one from continental Europe has ever won The Players Championship.
Seven strong competitors will attempt to change that this week--Niclas
Fasth (Sweden), Sergio Garcia (Spain), Per-Ulrik Johansson (Sweden),
Bernhard Langer (Germany), Thomas Levet (France), Jose Maria Olazabal
(Spain) and Jesper Parnevik (Sweden).
The field at The Players includes 27 players who have captured a total
of 48 major championships.
A truly international event, The Players Championship also includes
competitors from 20 countries outside the U.S.
Here's an amazing stat, courtesy of ShotLink, from last week's Bay Hill
Invitational: Tiger Woods won by 11 strokes, however he made only 1 of 34
putts from 15 feet and beyond. He made up for it, though, by sinking 70 of
79 putts from less than 15 feet.

Related Links
  • Full coverage of The Players Championship
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    Lesson with Woods fetches $210K for Harvey relief

    By Will GrayDecember 13, 2017, 2:51 pm

    A charity event featuring more than two dozen pro golfers raised more than $1 million for Hurricane Harvey relief, thanks in large part to a hefty price paid for a private lesson with Tiger Woods.

    The pro-am fundraiser was organized by Chris Stroud, winner of the Barracuda Championship this summer, and fellow pro and Houston resident Bobby Gates. It was held at Bluejack National in Montgomery, Texas, about an hour outside Houston and the first Woods-designed course to open in the U.S.

    The big-ticket item on the auction block was a private, two-person lesson with Woods at Bluejack National that sold for a whopping $210,000.

    Other participants included local residents like Stacy Lewis, Patrick Reed and Steve Elkington as well as local celebrities like NBA All-Star Clyde Drexler, Houston Texans quarterback T.J. Yates and Houston Astros owner Jim Crane.

    Stroud was vocal in his efforts to help Houston rebuild in the immediate aftermath of the storm that ravaged the city in August, and he told the Houston Chronicle that he plans to continue fundraising efforts even after eclipsing the event's $1 million goal.

    "This is the best event I have ever been a part of, and this is just a start," Stroud said. "We have a long way to go for recovery to this city, and we want to keep going with this and raise as much as we can and help as many victims as we can."

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    LPGA schedule features 34 events, record purse

    By Randall MellDecember 13, 2017, 2:02 pm

    The LPGA schedule will once again feature 34 events next year with a record $68.75 million in total purses, the tour announced on Wednesday.

    While three events are gone from the 2018 schedule, three new events have been added, with two of those on the West Coast and one in mainland China.

    The season will again start with the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic on Paradise Island (Jan. 25-28) and end with the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Fla., (Nov. 15-18).

    The LPGA played for $65 million in total prize money in 2017.

    An expanded West Coast swing in the front half of the schedule will now include the HUGEL-JTBC Championship in the Los Angeles area April 19-22. The site will be announced at a later date.

    The tour will then make a return to San Francisco’s Lake Merced Golf Club the following week, in a new event sponsored by L&P Cosmetics, a Korean skincare company. Both new West Coast tournaments will be full-field events.

    The tour’s third new event will be played in Shanghai Oct. 18-21 as part of the fall Asian swing. The title sponsor and golf course will be announced at a later date.

    “Perhaps the most important aspect of our schedule is the consistency — continuing to deliver strong playing opportunities both in North America and around the world, while growing overall purse levels every year,” LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said in a statement. “There is simply no better [women’s] tour opportunity in the world, when it comes to purses, global TV coverage or strength of field. It’s an exciting time in women’s golf, with the best players from every corner of the globe competing against each other in virtually every event.”

    While the Evian Championship will again be played in September next year, the tour confirmed its plans to move its fifth major to the summer in 2019, to be part of a European swing, with the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open and the Ricoh Women’s British Open.

    The Manulife LPGA Classic and the Lorena Ochoa Invitational are not returning to the schedule next year. Also, the McKayson New Zealand Women’s Open will not be played next year as it prepares to move to the front of the 2019 schedule, to be paired with the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open.

    The U.S. Women’s Open will make its new place earlier in the summer, a permanent move in the tour’s scheduling. It will be played May 31-June 3 at Shoal Creek Golf Club outside Birmingham, Ala. The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship (June 28-July 1) will be played at Kemper Lakes Golf Club on the north side of Chicago and the Ricoh Women’s British Open (Aug. 2-5) will be played at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in England.

    For the first time since its inception in 2014, the UL International Crown team event is going overseas, with the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in Incheon, South Korea, scheduled to host the event Oct. 4-7. The KEB Hana Bank Championship will be played in South Korean the following week.

    Here is the LPGA's schedule for 2018:

    Jan. 25-28: Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic; Paradise Island, Bahamas; Purse: $1.4 million

    Feb. 15-18: ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open; Adelaide, Australia; Purse: $1.3 million

    Feb. 21-24: Honda LPGA Thailand; Chonburi, Thailand; Purse: $1.6 million

    March 1-4: HSBC Women's World Championship; Singapore; Purse: $1.5 million

    March 15-18: Bank of Hope Founders Cup; Phoenix, Arizona; Purse: $1.5 million

    March 22-25: Kia Classic; Carlsbad, California; Purse: $1.8 million

    March 29 - April 1: ANA Inspiration; Rancho Mirage, California; Purse: $2.8 million

    April 11-14: LOTTE Championship; Kapolei, Oahu, Hawaii; Purse: $2 million

    April 19-22: HUGEL-JTBC Championship; Greater Los Angeles, California; Purse: $1.5 million

    April 26-29: Name to be Announced; San Francisco, California; Purse: $1.5 million

    May 3-6: Volunteers of America LPGA Texas Classic; The Colony, Texas; Purse: $1.3 million

    May 17-20: Kingsmill Championship; Williamsburg, Virginia; Purse: $1.3 million

    May 24-27: LPGA Volvik Championship; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Purse: $1.3 million

    May 31 - June 3: U.S. Women's Open Championship; Shoal Creek, Alabama; Purse: $5 million

    June 8-10: ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer; Galloway, New Jersey; Purse: $1.75 million

    June 14-17: Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Purse: $2 million

    June 22-24: Walmart NW Arkansas Championship presented by P&G; Rogers, Arkansas; Purse: $2 million

    June 28 - July 1: KPMG Women's PGA Championship; Kildeer, Illinois; Purse: $3.65 million

    July 5-8: Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic; Oneida, Wisconsin; Purse: $2 million

    July 12-15: Marathon Classic presented by Owens-Corning and O-I; Sylvania, Ohio; Purse: $1.6 million

    July 26-29: Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open; East Lothian, Scotland; Purse: $1.5 million

    Aug. 2-5: Ricoh Women's British Open; Lancashire, England; Purse: $3.25 million

    Aug. 16-19: Indy Women in Tech Championship presented by Guggenheim; Indianapolis, Indiana; Purse: $2 million

    Aug. 23-26: CP Women's Open; Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada; Purse: $2.25 million

    Aug. 30 - Sept. 2: Cambia Portland Classic; Portland, Oregon; Purse: $1.3 million

    Sept. 13-16: The Evian Championship; Evian-les-Bains, France; Purse: $3.85 million

    Sept. 27-30: Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Purse: $1.8 million

    Oct. 4-7: UL International Crown; Incheon, Korea; Purse: $1.6 million

    Oct. 11-14: LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship; Incheon, Korea; Purse: $2 million

    Oct. 18-21: Name to be Announced; Shanghai, China; Purse: $2.1 million

    Oct. 25-28: Swinging Skirts LPGA Taiwan Championship; New Taipei City, Chinese Taipei; Purse: $2.2 million

    Nov. 2-4: TOTO Japan Classic; Shiga, Japan; Purse: $1.5 million

    Nov. 7-10: Blue Bay LPGA; Hainan Island, China; Purse: $2.1 million

    Nov. 15-18: CME Group Tour Championship; Naples, Florida; Purse: $2.5 million

    Newsmaker of the Year: No. 4, Jordan Spieth

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 13, 2017, 1:00 pm

    Dismissed because he’s supposedly too short off the tee, or not accurate enough with his irons, or just a streaky putter, Jordan Spieth is almost never the answer to the question of which top player, when he’s at his best, would win in a head-to-head match.

    And yet here he is, at the age of 24, with 11 career wins and three majors, on a pace that compares favorably with the giants of the game. He might not possess the firepower of Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, but since he burst onto the PGA Tour in 2013 he has all that matters – a better résumé.

    Spieth took the next step in his development this year by becoming the Tour’s best iron player – and its most mentally tough.

    Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

    Just a great putter? Oh, puhleeze: He won three times despite putting statistics (42nd) that were his worst since his rookie year. Instead, he led the Tour in strokes gained-approach the green and this summer showed the discipline, golf IQ and bounce-back ability that makes him such a unique talent. 

    Even with his putter misbehaving, Spieth closed out the Travelers Championship by holing a bunker shot in the playoff, then, in perhaps an even bigger surprise, perfectly executed the player-caddie celebration, chest-bumping caddie Michael Greller. A few weeks later, sublime iron play carried him into the lead at Royal Birkdale, his first in a major since his epic collapse at the 2016 Masters.

    Once again his trusty putter betrayed him, and by the time he arrived on the 13th tee, he was tied with Matt Kuchar. What happened next was the stuff of legend – a lengthy ruling, gutsy up-and-down, stuffed tee shot and go-get-that putt – that lifted Spieth to his third major title.

    Though he couldn’t complete the career Grand Slam at the PGA, he’ll likely have, oh, another two decades to join golf’s most exclusive club.

    In the barroom debate of best vs. best, you can take the guys with the flair, with the booming tee shots and the sky-high irons. Spieth will just take the trophies.


    Masters Tournament: Return to the 12th; faltering on Sunday (T-11)

    Spieth pars 12, but makes quad on 15

    Spieth takes another gut punch, but still standing

    Article: Spieth splashes to worst Masters finish


    U.S. Open: 1 over usually good ... not at Erin Hills (T-35)


    The Open: Unforgettable finish leads to major win No. 3 (1st)

    Spieth survives confusing ordeal on 13

    Photos: Spieth's incredible journey on 13

    Take it, it's yours: Spieth gets claret jug

    Chamblee: Spieth doesn't have 'it' - 'he has it all'

    Article: Spieth silences his doubters - even himself


    PGA Championship: Career Grand Slam bid comes up well short (T-28)

    Article: Spieth accepts that Grand Slam is off the table


    AT&T Pebble Beach

    Article: Spieth rising from 'valley' after Pebble Beach win

    Travelers Championship

    Spieith wins dramatic Travelers in playoff

    Watch: Spieth holes bunker shot, goes nuts



    Photos: Jordan Spieth and Annie Verret


    Photos: Jordan Spieth through the years

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    Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 13, 2017, 12:30 pm