May 31, 2008

Perry Closes The Deal This Time

After nudging so close to a win the last few weeks, Kenny Perry closed the deal this time with a final-round 69 to win The Memorial and put a Ryder Cup spot in his grasp

Perry's win put him a big step closer to making the Ryder Cup team.

Perry's win put him a big step closer to making the Ryder Cup team.

DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) -- Kenny Perry joined Tiger Woods as the only three-time winner of the Memorial on Sunday, taking a big step toward joining the No. 1 player in the world on the Ryder Cup team this fall.

With every contender in full retreat on the back nine, the 47-year-old Perry surged ahead with pars and one timely birdie, coasting home to a 3-under 69 and a two-shot victory that could not have come at a better time.

He became the oldest winner at the tournament Jack Nicklaus built, and as he walked off the green to warm handshake from the tournament host, Perry soon was surrounded by his wife and three children. It was the first time in his two decades on the PGA Tour all of them had been at a tournament he won.

Bigger still was his answer to U.S. captain Paul Azinger's statement earlier in the week, that anyone making his Ryder Cup team would almost certainly have to win on tour this year.

Perry, who squandered two chances in the previous three weeks, delivered his best golf of the year.

He finished at 8-under 280, the highest winning score at the Memorial in 23 years. Perry earned $1.08 million for his 10th career victory, which translates to 1,080 points toward the Ryder Cup, moving him up to No. 5 in the standings.

The Ryder Cup will be held at Valhalla in his native Kentucky, and Perry is so desperate to make the team that he won't even bother qualifying for the U.S. Open. He does not like Torrey Pines, and figures he should devote his energy to tournaments where he has a better chance of earning points, such as Memphis next week and Hartford the week after the U.S. Open.

"When he (Azinger) said in the paper that you're probably going to have to win a tournament to get on his team, that changed my thinking," Perry said. "I'm glad I saw it."

Third-round leader Mathew Goggin lost his three-shot advantage in three holes and stumbled home to a 74, tied for second with former Masters champion Mike Weir, Justin Rose and Jerry Kelly, all of whom closed with a 71.

All of them had their chances until dropping shots somewhere along the back nine.

Perry took the lead with a birdie on the ninth hole and never gave it up. He effectively secured victory with a 5-wood to 12 feet on the par-5 15th hole, and while he had to settle for a two-putt birdie, it gave him a three-shot lead with three holes remaining.

"I hadn't seen you all week," he told Nicklaus walking off the 18th green. "It's nice to see you here."

Nicklaus, who played 43 consecutive U.S. Opens and won four of them, didn't flinch earlier Sunday when told that Perry was skipping the national championship.

"My goal was never to make the Ryder Cup. It was to win the U.S. Open," Nicklaus said. "But I understand. Being in Kentucky, it's a big thing for Kenny. He's looking at the big picture for him to do what he wants to do."

Perry was one shot behind going into the final round of The Players Championship and closed with an 81. He was in a playoff in the AT&T Classic outside Atlanta two weeks ago when his second shot to the par 5 caromed off the base of a tree and shot back across the green and into the water.

"Magic always happens here," said Perry, who also won in 1991 and 2005.

It sure didn't happen for anyone else.

Goggin's three-shot margin was gone in three holes, and his lead vanished in four, courtesy of two bogeys as everyone else was moving forward. The only consolation was a birdie at No. 18 and a tie for second, matching his best PGA Tour result.

"It took me three, four holes to calm down," Goggin said. "And that was the difference."

Four players had a share of the lead on the front nine, all of them poised to take charge.

Rose was the first to 8 under when he holed a bunker shot for eagle on No. 7, but he retreated with a bogey from the bunker on the next hole and fell apart early on the back nine, not all by his own doing. Still in range of the lead, Rose watched an approach just left of the flag on No. 13 hit a sprinkler in the fringe and carom into the gallery, leading to bogey.

Weir, trying to become Canada's biggest PGA Tour winner with his ninth victory, chipped in for birdie from short of the ninth green to make the turn at 8 under and tied for the lead, but he also gave away shots early on the back nine. Weir came up short on the 10th and missed a 10-foot par putt, then went over the 11th green with a wedge into rough so deep he could barely see his ball.

Weir had the last chance, two shots behind until missing a 7-foot birdie on the 17th.

"When you win a tournament, you guess right a few times," Weir said. "Today, three times in a row I guessed wrong."

Kelly never had a share of the lead, but he felt as miserable as the rest of them. Perry made his lone bogey on the 17th to fall to 8 under, and Kelly was 3 feet away for birdie to pull within one shot. His putt caught the lip and spun 5 feet away.