Perry looks to continue hot streak at 3M Championship

  • Article by: BRIAN STENSAAS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 2, 2013 - 7:06 AM

There are still days Kenny Perry doesn’t feel like getting out of bed. When you battle bad knees and rely on anti-inflammatory medication, it becomes a common pre-dawn thought.

Six years after his right knee was repaired, Perry had left knee surgery in February. He missed eight weeks of competitive golf, leaving him unsure how well he’d play when he returned to the Champions Tour.

The answer to that question for Perry, who is in town to play this weekend in the 3M Championship at the TPC Twin Cities in Blaine, sits on his mantle: a pair of major championship trophies, rewarding his motivation to leave the pillow behind each morning.

Perry came back in April, collected a few paychecks in no-cut tournaments and set his sights on the Tour’s run of four stateside majors.

Long known for playoff losses in the 1996 PGA Championship in his home state of Kentucky and at the 2009 Masters, Perry won the Senior Players championship and the Senior U.S. Open in a span of 14 days this summer. He shot weekend rounds of 63 and 64 in both of his come-from-behind victories.

He skipped last week’s Senior British Open to attend a family gathering. But he comes into Friday’s opening round of the 3M Championship not just the hottest golfer over 50, but maybe across the sport.

“He has the amazing ability to catch fire five, six weeks a year and shoot scores that make you go, ‘What are you thinking about?’ ” Rocco Mediate said. “And it’s on amazing golf courses. And he’s doing it again right now.”

Yes, the surgically repaired Kenny Perry can still play.

“There’s a hair’s-breadth difference between this tour and out there,” on the PGA Tour, World Golf Hall of Famer Colin Montgomerie said. “Those scores would have stood up in a PGA [Tour] event — if not won.”

Perry agreed.

“I’ve shot those scores on the regular tour,” the 52-year-old said, reciting rounds of 62 at Riviera Country Club and in the Bob Hope Classic. “That’s the nature of my game. When I get it going, I keep it going. They come in bunches.”

The floodgates could stay open this weekend for Perry.

The 3M Championship is known as one of the lowest-scoring events on the Champions Tour. Long-hitting players feast on the wide fairways, and Perry certainly fits the mold. His driving distance average of 287.1 yards puts him third on tour, 20 yards longer than the average. He also leads the tour in putting.

Perry’s distance pays off immediately at the 3M Championship. A fairway bunker forces many players to aim left off the first tee. Perry can hit over it, leaving only a sand wedge to the green.

Pair it with a cooperative putter and the formula for the tournament’s low scores comes into focus.

Perry has finished in the top three in both of his previous trips to the 3M Championship.

“It fits me, fits my eye,” he said. “To me it’s all about the putter. If the putter is still hot, yeah, I’m going to play well here this week.”

It would be easy to understand if Perry strutted into town with an air of intrinsic overconfidence. He’s on a roll, well-rested without a transatlantic itinerary like so many of his peers and on a course that he’s known to tame.

But Perry insists that’s not the case, which Roger Chapman said might be the best piece of advice he can offer.

Chapman won two Champions Tour majors last season. He’s had only one top-10 finish since and this season missed the cut in two of the five majors.

“All of a sudden things aren’t going your way and you’re feeling frustrated that you’re not doing what you did the year before,” Chapman said. “You have to sort of take a reality check. Two majors in one year is certainly special. You’ve raised your own personal bar a lot higher.”

Perry has vowed to remain on an even keel.

“I don’t do well with that kind of pressure,” he said. “I’m just out here a day at a time hoping my knees hang in there. I know how good I can play. It’s hard to get to a level where you know you’re going to shoot a 63 or 64. It’s just cool to know I can continue to play.”

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