BETH MURRISON: We are very happy to have with us this afternoon Kenny Perry, playing in his 11th U.S. Open. He played here in 2002 and made the cut, and has had a successful 2009 so far with five Top‑10 finishes, including a victory at the FBR Open.
Kenny, thanks very much for joining us today. You mentioned you played Saturday and Sunday here; could you talk a little bit about how you found the golf course?
KENNY PERRY: I think the golf course is great. Got in here, flew in here Saturday morning, played 18 on Saturday afternoon and Sunday, and was kind of scouting. Did all my homework, worked the greens, kind of similar to what I did at Augusta. So I've kind of got all my homework done.
Today was just a practice day. I just hit a lot of balls and was messing around and I'll play again tomorrow, and that will probably be my last practice round and get ready for Thursday.
Q. Can you comment on the fact that this is the first time you'll have three par 4s, 500 yards or longer, and what would happen if rains do come into those holes?
KENNY PERRY: I know yesterday, I couldn't get to No. 7. I hit a good drive, the 525 par 4 and I was still blocked ‑‑ I was in the fairway and I hit it down the middle. And I had 255 to the green, but I was still in behind the trees. I couldn't hit it far enough to get around the trees, so I had to hit a slice around the trees and it came up short.
So no matter what I do on that hole, I can't ‑‑ if I hit it any further left, I'm going to have 300 into the hole for my next shot or 280, 270, and that might get me left further of the trees, I don't think so.
In 2002 we played the up‑tee on 7. That was really the only one that bothered me of all the holes. The other two 505 holes, I didn't have a problem with. I was still hitting iron into them. I didn't have to hit wood into them. So they seemed okay.
But that hole is going to be ‑‑ they are expecting rain showers or whatever they are going to get through the week, there's going to be a lot of guys have trouble getting it over the bunker there. Just getting it over the bunker to the fairway. Kind of like I remember Nick Price in 2002 on 10 when it was raining hard, he couldn't hit it far enough to get over the weeds there. He had a three‑yard landing area with the walkway there that he had to land in. That will be a situation on that hole.
I like how they did the rough. They have that progressive rough out there and I notice the first couple of cuts, I could actually move the ball a little bit and actually play some shots out of that. And maybe the third or fourth cut, it got pretty bad to where I was chipping out, and then you've got the real high weeds that you can't even play out of; it will be a lost ball probably, if you can find the ball.
All depends how they want to set the tees. They have got a lot of options out there to make the golf course play any way they want it to play. The greens are not very fast now, they are very soft and receptive and will hold anything you throw at them, and I don't think that will change, I really don't. I think they will stay pretty soft all week.
I think the scores are going to be okay. I don't think they are going to be that high to tell you the truth. I think it's going to be better than even par what, did Tiger win, 1‑under or even, he was 3‑under? I may be wrong on that assumption, but to me, I just remember the rough just off the fairway in '02 was very severe, it was definitely chip out; whereas this year I think you can actually play out of it a little bit, and I think you'll see the guys get it on the green.
Q. How do you look back on Augusta, on the Masters and what happened on Sunday?
KENNY PERRY: Very positive. Enjoyed it. It was a good ride.
Look forward to the opportunity to try to get in there again. Made me hungrier, basically.
I've been down a few times. When I knocked it off that tree at Atlanta and lost to Ryuji last year and Paul comes out the next day and says, you've got to win to be on my Ryder Cup Team, that was kind of a kick in the gut a little bit. Kind of similar.
Just, you know, it gave me a lot of confidence to give me the ability to know that I can do it. I had it. That was something I had. Kind of like '96, I had that deal done, too, PGA, and I just did not quite finish it out.
I know I can do it. It's just I've got to rethink it a little bit when I'm coming done on the last couple of holes and not get ahead of myself. But I look forward to the challenge.
Q. When you're out there walking this course, can you feel that the galleries have a more special connection with this place than the other majors, and along those lines, sometimes they know how to play the course better than a lot of pros?
KENNY PERRY: Definitely everybody I saw on the course yesterday said: "This is my home course, I play here all the time, I'll tell you how the greens go, let me help you read the greens," or whatever. It was kind of funny, the guys that were out there yesterday.
I was here ‑‑ Scott Hoch was in front of me when he made the hole‑in‑one on 17 and then I was close to Phil's group, and the fans really love, were in connection with Phil. You could really tell he fed from that energy. So I think the fans are great here.
I think it's a two‑way street, though. If they don't like you, they can really get on to you and drive you crazy; and if they like you, that energy, that vibe there will help you play better. They are definitely very boisterous up here.
Q. I just wanted you to talk a little bit about, it seemed when Jack Nicklaus played, he was always going against the same names a lot, Watson, Trevino, Palmer, today a lot of people would say there is better talent from top to bottom, but you are not getting that high level of, say, players, really going at Tiger maybe at every major. Now is that a factor of more depth, or is it the higher level of players are not just as good as maybe the Watsons and the Trevinos?
KENNY PERRY: I agree. I think, you know, that era, there were probably ten guys that were very capable of beating Jack each week where, it seems like in our era, you've got Phil, you've got a few guys up there in the top that challenge Tiger each and every week. But you'll see one guy come from out of there, like I did at Augusta, I'll pop in there every now and then, you'll see a guy pop in here and there but you don't actually see the same six, eight guys really competing against him. He's definitely a step ahead of us when he's playing his golf.
So our era has been ‑‑ it's been fun playing with him, playing against him. I think he's made us better players. We all seem to have to work harder to try to catch up to him a little bit. But to me, it's been his mental focus. It's not been his ability; he's a great short game player, and his ability to escape trouble, I guess, with his driver. His driver has always been his Achilles heel it seems like and then it seems like at Memorial when he gets his driver, he drove it better and he ends up winning the tournament.
I don't know how to answer that question. I think you're right in your assumption and your assessment there. I think he's always been kind of a little ahead of everybody elsewhere in Jack's era, Jack had more guys there ‑‑ there were always different guys winning the majors it seemed like instead of the one guy always in focus.
Q. I wanted to bounce this one off you again, you've been in two sudden death Playoffs at the majors, and here last year, of course they famously had the 18‑plus hole playoff with Tiger and Rocco; what do you think the best way, fairest way, to break a tie at a major ‑‑ and you just went through a playoff where a guy got a lucky bounce off a tree and would seem like sudden death could bring the luck factor into it to a much greater degree. What would you prefer?
KENNY PERRY: Personally I prefer sudden death. I like getting it over with. We are all in the moment and we are there and we are playing and the guys who are in the playoff are probably the guys who are playing the best. Let's get it on; momentum. Let's see who's got it the next hole. I like laying all the chips on the line for one hole. To me personally that's the way I look at it.
You probably get a fairer test if you do have an 18‑hole playoff, the guy who is actually playing the best that day will definitely win the championship. Maybe that's a fairer assessment, but maybe I am a little bit of a gambler, too. I like my chances if I'm playing well on that one hole.
Q. Two things, first of all, those people that offered you advice from outside the ropes, does anybody ever offer you any useful advice, and also, just as a family person yourself, what do you think of what Phil is going through right now?
KENNY PERRY: My sister has been fighting breast cancer for a year and a half now, two years, and my mom is fighting multiple myeloma cancer, and it's really beating her down pretty fast.
Hopefully what I've only heard, I don't know a lot, talked to Phil; they caught it early. My sister is doing great. Through her surgeries and through all the chemo and all the radiations, she's been a fighter. She's been hanging in there, and she's doing great.
So it's pretty neat, you know, if it was my wife, I don't know how I could sit there and concentrate and play golf to tell you the truth. I mean, my mind, my focus would be somewhere else, especially if I was in Phil's shoes. Here is a guy who doesn't need to prove anything to anybody. He's one of the best we've got out here on TOUR and Amy is one of the sweetest ‑‑ she's such a sweetheart, too, she's always so light and bubbly and refreshing and she's always pumping you up; and she comes up to me, gives me a big hug and tells me how great I'm playing, even if I'm not playing good, she's always that uplifting person.
You know, I don't know why we have struggles like that in our lives, and wish she didn't have to go through that, but maybe they say they caught it early. She's a fighter. I know she's going to be tough, and I think they are going to be just fine through this.
Q. Any advice from the fans here?
KENNY PERRY: The fans here? The three guys that followed me here last two days on Saturday and Sunday, obviously ‑‑ well, we don't play from these tee boxes for one thing. (Laughter).
The fifth hole, the same two guys are there every day, and he was talking to me a little bit about that one green there, and that's about it.
Q. I'd like to follow up a little bit about the situation at St. Jude's. The PGA has been involved a lot with charity groups, and I think we don't talk about that enough. You do a lot of work with scholarships, and I think it's a part of the game that we really don't spend as much time talking about as we should, and second as a follow‑up to that, if you won this week, bigger than The Ryder Cup for you?
KENNY PERRY: No. Well, I mean, I don't know how y'all want to take that. I'm not trying to say The Ryder Cup is bigger than any major; no, by no means, a major to me is the ultimate that you can win.
But for me at that stage in my life and my career and my dad at 85 years old when I won my match and he walked up on that green and gave me that big hug and said, "That's the greatest gift you could ever have given me." For a father/son, for him to pick him up the way he was, because I about lost him over Christmas, really he had bypass surgery and he had lost 40 pounds, I didn't know if I was even going to get him through the winter. Just for me and him to have that special moment as a father/son that, meant a lot.
Family to me is No. 1, golf has always been third in my life, my faith, my family my job and that's kind of the way I approach my life and that's the way I live my life. The majors are the ultimate by far but for me that Ryder Cup was in my home state of Kentucky (Louisville). I had a mulligan there, I've said this many times, that's where Brooksy beat me in the playoff and everybody in my home state who sees me, they all remember that.
Well, they don't remember that anymore. Now it's all The Ryder Cup. That's all they remember is how I played in The Ryder Cup at Valhalla.
So to me that was the ultimate. That was so special to me. I tried to get that green jacket. I had one arm on the Cup and I had one sleeve in the arm in the green jacket; I hope I can hug that U.S. Open trophy come Sunday, and I'll answer that question differently come Sunday if that happens. You know, I'll have probably a different opinion about that, so we'll see. But to me, The Ryder Cup was just out of this world. It was a lot of fun.
Q. Can you talk about the scholarship things that you've been doing back home?
KENNY PERRY: Well, I give five percent of my earnings to Lipscomb University. That's a Christian school; my wife went there; my son went there; my daughter went there. And our goal was if a kid doesn't want to go to UK or Louisville or Western, they are about 8 to 10 thousand a year, Lipscomb is 25 a year; money was not going to be an issue if the kids wanted a Christian education. That was our goal setting the scholarship up. We have probably over 40 kids using it now. It's 1.5 million I've put in a trust fund there which goes to all of the kids who want to use it.
We branch out, it's not strictly our county, most of them have come from my hometown, but we do use it all over the area now. And I have also helped started the Boys' and Girls' Club chapter in Franklin, we built the building there in Franklin. We had 40 kids start three years ago and now we have 550 kids there, and to me that is awesome. We had a huge outing at my golf course just a couple of weeks ago. We raised almost $30,000 from a town of 10,000 people, small town. It's amazing how my little town is definitely a Mayberry town, all the communities rally around. Probably average income there is 35,000, 40,000, 50,000 at most maybe, my whole town. And they give and give and give. It's pretty amazing community.
Q. How is Justin's game?
KENNY PERRY: Well, you can ask him. He played at Sebonack yesterday. I don't think he had as much fun yesterday out there.
Q. You were just talking a little while ago about you were behind Scott Hoch in '02 when he made the hole‑in‑one on 17. How difficult of a hole is that? It's really well protected and the greens slide, two‑tiered and now you're talking about the stadium atmosphere in Scottsdale. Is that a hole you get geared up for and you just want to push it through?
KENNY PERRY: Definitely, it's a beautiful hole that. Front bunker is all the way across the front of the green it's very steep. The green is very narrow and it's shelved where there's a left shelf and right shelf with a spine right in the middle where the ball will really roll hard to the right to the lower tier. You know, it's 220 yards or whatever. I hit 4‑iron in there Saturday and Sunday as hard as I could hit it. So very difficult hole.
And you know, what's neat about it, I remember all of the gallery behind the green up on that hillside just wall‑to‑wall people and then they have the grandstands to the right so it has that amphitheater effect. It's just a beautiful hole. I just remember all of the crowds jumping on the bank there, it was pretty neat.
Q. Longer distance?
KENNY PERRY: No, to me, I remember hitting 4‑iron back then, too. So to me it's the same distance.
Q. Forgive me for not knowing this, do you have any vivid memory of watching Tiger and Rocco on those 19 holes last year?
KENNY PERRY: Well, I only watched the last few holes. I was out. I don't know what I was doing that day but I only caught it the last couple of holes of the tournament. Rocco, I guess he was down and he came back, and got back ‑‑ that's when I kind of picked it up, when he kind of won like three holes in a row or something and I remember and he kind of got back into the match and then they fought it coming down to the last hole. It was pretty neat.
Q. When you are conditioning and practicing and preparing away from playing, when you are working on your game, do you allow yourself to let '96 and now let Augusta into your head?
KENNY PERRY: No.
Q. You're not that ‑‑ you're not that guy?
KENNY PERRY: Well, it may happen now. You ask the question; it may be there now. (Laughter).
But no. In the past it has not, no. It seemed like everybody week is a different week for me, I'm such a feel player. I'm always ‑‑ my ball is always flying a little bit differently and different shot shape, different look.
To me, it's a feeling that I have inside of me each week, when I was winning golf tournaments, my stroke felt differently and my mind‑set was different, everything felt different. My last few weeks I played pretty poorly, pretty average, I'm trying to find that makeup to get me back on top, so you know, to me, it's more of a feeling inside than anything.
BETH MURRISON: Kenny, thanks for joining us. We wish you well this week.