AKRON — The old guy has arrived and even he isn’t used to the attention he’s getting.
At 47 — he turns 48 next week — Kenny Perry usually gets to Firestone Country Club’s South Course without a police escort and in no need of worrying about the rush that comes from autograph seekers.
Funny what a couple wins and a snub of the British Open will do for you. With three PGA Tour victories and two top-10 finishes in his last six starts, Perry is not only the talk of the tournament, which runs today through Sunday, but one of the favorites to win it.
“You know I set a plan out, a goal,” Perry said. “And it’s actually been a dream more than a goal. To be able to achieve it at my age, it’s been pretty special.
“I’ve got a lot of guys rubbing on me, touching my clubs. It’s pretty funny. All of a sudden everyone is bothering me. I played in the last group (at Firestone) last year with Tiger on Sunday and a couple years ago I was in the last group with him again. I got the fist pumps put on me (both times).”
His success this year actually has Ohio connections as his hot streak started in Dublin at The Memorial. The Kentuckian shot an 8-under par, starting off a streak that would see him win The Buick Open and John Deere Classic in back-to-back appearances after finishing tied for sixth at the Travelers Championship.
Suddenly everybody wanted to know what the Western Kentucky University alum was all about, though he didn’t want any part of it.
“I’ve always run from it, to tell you the truth,” Perry said. “I’ve always been trying to hide from attention. But this year, for some reason, I feel like I can prove a point. It may not happen. I may fall flat on my face. It may be too much pressure, too much burden to handle. I don’t know.”
It hasn’t been so far for the golfer who is almost a lock to participate in the Ryder Cup despite not playing in three majors and two World Golf Championships.
Perry made big headlines two weeks ago when he said no to the British Open, opting to play in the U.S. Bank Championship instead.
He finished tied for sixth but made waves all over Europe for turning his back on a major championship.
“To me that was more of a compliment than a criticism,” Perry said. “I said before, why in 22 years nobody cared where I played golf. That’s the truth. I’m not trying to knock myself, but that’s the truth.
“Now all of a sudden I’ve got everybody. It’s funny how the media goes. One little story and the next thing you know everybody runs the story. Now I’m the bad guy over there. It was quite comical. I was chuckling over it. I was like, ‘Wow, that’s pretty cool.’”
Perry’s success came thanks to Paul Hargarten, a member at Vero Beach Country Club in Florida. Hartgarten gave him a Ping Craz-E putter at the start of the season.
All the putter has done is earn him $4.46 million in prize money, 20,824 FedEx points and a 69.41 scoring average. All rank first among active golfers — Tiger Woods holds the money mark but is out for the season.
Perry has missed just one cut this season and has seven top-20 finishes to his credit — and a ton of confidence as he comes into a tournament where he finished 11th a year ago.
“I am a very streaky player,” he said. “I don’t know why, but when I win one, it just seems like I’m going to win another. It just seems like that confidence, when I get that feeling, that killer instinct, it breeds success.”
Contact Brad Bournival at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.