But that triumphant ride toward retirement is taking a stunning detour down Magnolia Lane.
With one last birdie to cap off what he called one of the best rounds he ever played, Perry shot a 5-under 67 on a blustery Friday at the Masters to share the lead with Chad Campbell going into the weekend.
About the only thing Perry hasnt done is win a major, however, the 48-year-old could be golfs oldest major champion if he pulls this off.
Ive had a great career, and Id be very satisfied if it ended today, Perry said. The Ryder Cup, I cant express to yall how much that meant to me. That was the ultimate of anything I have ever, ever been a part of or accomplished, be it any of my 13 wins.
But Dad has always said, You need to win that green jacket. He always calls me and tells me.
Augusta National was tougher than the opening round, but even with tougher pins and a gusts that swirled through Amen Corner and lasted deep into the afternoon, the fireworks were just as endless.
Campbell got off to another solid start and finished with a 25-foot birdie for a 70, sharing the lead with Perry at 9-under 135. They had a one-shot lead over former U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera, who had a 68.
Anthony Kim set a tournament record with 11 birdies on his way to a 65 '10 shots better than his first round ' to get into contention in his Masters debut. Phil Mickelson was on the verge of missing the cut until he played his last seven holes in 5 under for a 68. Sergio Garcia shot a 67, the first time he has broken par at the Masters in five years.
There were a record 17 eagles in the second round, breaking by two the mark set in 1997.
Tiger Woods couldnt join this parade of birdies and eagles for the second straight day. All three of his birdies were followed by bogeys, and his 72 left him seven shots behind. Woods has never won a major when trailing by more than six shots after 36 holes.
It was just tough all round, said Woods, who headed straight for the practice range.
Maybe for him, but not for the 25 players who managed to break par.
It was tough on Gary Player, Fuzzy Zoeller and Greg Norman for other reasons.
Player completed his remarkable career at the Masters by competing for the 52nd and final time. The 73-year-old South African, who won three green jackets, knelt before reaching the 18th green and clasped his hands to thank the gallery.
Zoeller also is calling it quits after an Augusta National career remembered for winning the first sudden-death playoff at the Masters in 1979, and for his racially insensitive comments after Woods won in 1997.
The return of the Shark lasted only two days. Norman shot 40 on the back nine for a 77 to miss the cut by two shots in what likely will be his last time playing the Masters, 22 years without ever getting upstairs to the champions locker room.
Is there room up there for a 48-year-old from Kentucky?
Everything is a bonus now, it really is, Perry said. Im just going through each and every day enjoying life a little bit. I think I can win. Im not going out there very casually. Im burning inside, wanting to kick everybodys butt.
Jack Nicklaus was 46 when he became the oldest Masters champion in 1986. The oldest to win any major was Julius Boros, who was 48 when he won the 1968 PGA Championship. Perry is about four months older.
Despite his paltry record at the Masters ' five missed cuts in eight appearances ' a victory would not be all that surprising. Perry won earlier this year in Phoenix and is No. 11 in the world ranking.
He has a new driver that makes him feel as though he will hit every fairway, a 64-degree sand wedge that has helped take the edge off the scary chips around the green, and he is putting better than ever. No wonder he made it through Friday without a single bogey.
That was probably one of the greatest rounds Ive ever played, Perry said. I just didnt have any nerves. I was so comfortable out there today. I dont know how to explain it. But it was just easy.
It was easy enough for Todd Hamilton, the former British Open champion who has had only two top 10s since his victory at Royal Troon five years ago. In his final year of eligibility at the Masters, he had a 70 and was in fourth place at 6-under 138.
Kim was in the group at 4-under 140 that included Garcia and Jim Furyk (74), while Mickelsons late rally put him in a tie for 11th at 141 along with Geoff Ogilvy (70), Steve Stricker (69) and 46-year-old Vijay Singh (70).
I havent been making 11 birdies in two days, so to make 11 in one day is pretty special, said the 23-year-old Kim, regarded as the next American star in golf. And obviously, to do it at Augusta is amazing. Hopefully, I can build off that, and if I keep the putter hot, I like my chances here.
Padraig Harringtons hopes of a third straight major took a dive with a 73, leaving him seven shots behind. Not only was he crushed by seeing four putts spin around the lip, the Irishman was assessed a one-shot penalty on the 15th hole when a gust moved his ball after he had grounded his putter.
He was tied with Woods, and not about to give up ' not this year, on this golf course.
Here at Augusta, it is not a big deal to be seven behind, Harrington said. There are a number of players under par and were expecting a tougher challenge over the weekend.
Campbell has been here before, leading after two rounds in 2006 when he wound up in a tie for third. He pulled away early with great wedge play that set up two birdies and a 7-iron to short range on the fourth hole, one of several where the tees were moved up.
I dont really know exactly what I learned, Campbell said, referring to his 36-hole lead three years ago, but I know its nice that Ive been in that position before. Theres still a long ways to go, but its definitely nice to not be on foreign ground.
The cut was at 1-over 145, the lowest since Augusta National went through its first big overhaul to lengthen the golf course.
Among those going home were Ernie Els and Fred Couples for the second straight year, Adam Scott and two of the teenagers ' 17-year-old Ryo Ishikawa and 18-year-old Danny Lee, the U.S. Amateur who will turn pro on Monday.
The other teen, 19-year-old Rory McIlroy, was in a tie for sixth at 4 under until he four-putted the 16th green, then took triple bogey on the 18th hole to make the cut on the number.