June 1, 2008

Is Torrey Pines The Way To Vahalla?

Kenny Perry won't be at Torrey Pines. Does that make sense for a guy who seems a perfect fit for the Ryder Cup team?

Perry has decided to focus on events where he has a good record.

Perry has decided to focus on events where he has a good record.

When people ask about the nicest guys on the PGA Tour, Kenny Perry is always near the top of my list. Even if he missed a five-footer on the 18th green to shoot a 73, Perry will stop to say hello or give you a few minutes on the practice range, and if that doesn't make him unique, there is an innocence and genuineness to the man that makes him very endearing.

Sunday's two-stroke triumph at the Memorial was Perry's 10th career victory, moving him from 17th to fifth in the U.S. Ryder Cup standings. You can't say he's a lock to make the squad because the number of automatic qualifiers has been reduced from 10 to eight, but captain Paul Azinger says he wants winners on his team, and with this year's matches being played at Valhalla GC in Kentucky, Perry's home state, you'd think his chances of being there just went from 30 or 40 percent to 90.

Actually, make that 75 to 80, as Perry already has made it clear he won't be playing in next week's U.S. Open. He isn't exempt and won't attempt to qualify.

"I've only played there three times in my career," he said of Torrey Pines. "I don't like it. Never have."

This is a bit puzzling. Perry has long been considered one of the best drivers in the game, and if a tournament ever set up well for 300-yard tee shots in the middle of the fairway, it would be a U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.

More than any player I know, Perry is partial to hot weather, so my best guess is that his negative experiences at the Buick Invitational might be attributed to the breezy, 62-degree days in January than the actual venue. Not that it matters. Perry won't be at Torrey, which isn't a mistake so much as a lost opportunity -- he contended at the 2003 British Open despite not being a big fan of that tournament or its customary weather.

Instead, he'll focus on summer events where he has played well, the Travelers Championship (Hartford) and Buick Open (Flint) being two of his favorites. That's fine, but if Perry were to pass on the British, which he skipped last year, that would be consecutive majors where he didn't give himself a chance to improve his position in the U.S. standings, in a Ryder Cup year, no less. If you really want to play for Uncle Sam, you might want to show up for the big ones.