There have been many close calls on both the PGA and Champions Tour, but Kenny Perry was able to get the “monkey” off his back to win the 2013 Constellation Senior Players by two strokes over Fred Couples and Duffy Waldorf at Fox Chapel Golf Club on Sunday.
Earlier this year, Perry was unable to hold the lead at the Senior PGA Championship, losing to Kohki Idoki. However, Perry came from behind to win in the Pittsburgh suburbs, overcoming the hump of winning a major.
“I thought I was snake bit,” Perry said. “I mean, I’d gotten close so many times and I just seemed to mess up down the home stretch and not make it happen, where actually today I went the other direction.”
The final round started with Waldorf birding his first four holes which allowed him to snag the lead that was held by Fred Couples entering the day. This was the start of a 6-under-par 29 through his first nine holes, which gave him a one-shot lead.
“Obviously I felt like I wanted to get off to a good start today being behind, but way better than I could have imagined,” Waldorf said. “I didn’t even really work very hard. I was hitting it close and I just had it. The longest putt I made was about a four-footer on No. 1 and still 4-under par.”
This set up for a shootout final round, which was exactly what Perry told reporters to expect. The tide turned for Perry on the par-3 11h hole. Facing a 20-foot putt, Perry was able to convert to tie Waldorf for the lead.
“I actually hit it too hard and it hit the back of the cup and went right in, so that was a huge bonus right there,” Perry said.
While Perry was unable to birdie the next four holes, both Couples and Waldorf made mistakes. Waldorf bogeyed the 12th hole, while both him and Couples bogeyed the 15th hole to offset a birdie he made on 14.
On the 16th hole, Perry hit his approach shot to two feet, taking a two-stroke advantage with two holes to play. Heading into the 17th hole, Perry was feeling relaxed, but he felt something was familiar with the way the flag was set up.
“I made hole-in-one on that pin the year before, the front pin with the same golf club, the same
iron, I had the same iron I used last year,” Perry said. “That’s a pretty good hole for me.”
Perry hit his approach to a few feet to give himself another chance for a birdie. His birdie putt would have to wait as both Couples and Waldorf converted on their birdie opportunities to get to one and two shots back, respectively.
Despite this, Perry was able to keep his two-stroke advantage over Couples with his second consecutive birdie.
“I’m thinking, dang, I’ve got to make this two-footer now to keep my two-stroke lead,” Perry said. “He
put some pressure on me, and thank goodness it was just a dead straight putt, it didn’t really have any break in it and I was able to knock it in.”
On the final hole, Waldorf and Couples both reached the par-5 in two shots, while Perry was just short of the green.
Waldorf put the finishing touches on a 6-under 64, while Couples faced a long downhill eagle putt to tie Perry. He was unable to convert and then missed the birdie putt to shoot 2 under for the round.
“I would have thought I’d shoot better than 68, but you know, there were a couple shots you always should have back,” Couples said.
The stage was set for Perry but ultimately he had one more competitor and that was the weather. Another storm was on its way to Fox Chapel and the horn could have been blown to suspend play once again.
Perry missed his birdie putt and tapped in for par just before the horn blew, a signal of how close play was to being suspended. This also meant that the trophy presentation would not occur on the 18th green as it had been last year. Instead Perry was awarded the trophy inside the clubhouse.
With the victory, Perry now leads the Champions Tour’s Charles Schwab Cup standings.
“That’s something I competed for the last two years and I think I finished 12th or 13th the last two years in the Cup,” Perry said. “I need to finish this deal off, win some more, keep my points up to have a great shot going…to San Francisco. It’s neat to have the lead.”
Up next for Perry is a stop on the PGA Tour as he will play the Greenbrier Classic in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. Greenbrier is one of Perry’s sponsors.
Amey Fink contributed to this report