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June 26, 2018

Kenny Perry

Colorado Springs, Colorado

THE MODERATOR: Welcome to the 39th U.S. Senior Open here in Colorado Springs. We're joined by Kenny Perry, playing in his seventh U.S. Senior Open.

Quickly, you had a great visit out here the preview in May. You did some pretty cool things on the trip. But you did get to play the East Course. And so what were your impressions then, and what are your impressions now that you might have played some golf on it?

KENNY PERRY: I couldn't thank Brian and Robbie and USGA enough for picking this whole golf course because the whole golf course is right to left. It's a big, high-baller hitter. You gotta hook it and you gotta just send it. And it fits right in my wheelhouse.

I thought immediately -- I even told my caddie, I said, if we can somehow figure these greens out and get my putting back on track I've got a real good shot this week.

Really looking forward to the challenge. The rough's very severe. But those greens are really tough. I think I could probably play out here 10 years straight and not figure out how to putt these greens.

Everything runs away from that shrine, I realize that. I'm still having trouble with the uphillers; they still go a lot further past the hole than I think they should be going. I've got to get my speed toned down a bit. But the golf course is beautiful. It's in great shape.

It's a greatest test. And I can see why, I think it was Eduardo Romero was the only one who shot under par here in '08. I can see why only one person broke under par here. It's a great golf course and I'm excited to be here. And hopefully get that putter working and have a good shot at it again.

THE MODERATOR: With the productive two days that you had, helping us with the promotion of the championship here at Colorado, do you feel like a little bit of an affinity to the place, feel like you're coming back closer to home?

KENNY PERRY: I feel like I have a little bit of a heads-up. I think I need to be coming here for 10 years straight to really feel comfortable about playing here.

But the hotel's fantastic. What a facility. And all the amenities. What a great place for, I just know everybody is really chirping about how great this place is. They're all a little upset about how long it is. And I'm like I kind of like it a little long.

I'm not kind of worried about that part of it. I just gotta make sure I find the fairways and hit the greens and make some putts. And it's going to be a fun week, I think.

THE MODERATOR: To go back to last year, you finished at Salem with a bogey-free round to win your second Senior Open. What's your fondest memory of that day?

KENNY PERRY: I just remember Kirk Triplett kept chipping in -- I think he chipped in three times on Sunday. But I was able to continue to put the pressure on him and continue to make birdies after he was doing all that magical stuff. And normally it usually flip-flops; when you see a guy doing that, the momentum will kind of swing to his side.

But I was able to keep the momentum on my side and keep putting pressure on him for him to -- I was able to match him. And that was pretty special to be able to continue to match him when he was doing all that stuff.

So I just remember how well I putted that week. I made everything. That putt I made on 15 after I hit a terrible 4-iron short left and had to chip out right and made a 20-something-footer for par on that par 3. And I knew immediately when that putt was -- I was going to win that thing.


Q. You had a lot of success on the PGA TOUR, and unlike other professional sports, there's a second career for you in this, the Champions Tour. So if you could answer that question, and then my other question is: What would you do if you didn't have this tour to kind of scratch your competitive itch?
KENNY PERRY: Well, for one thing, it's pretty incredible. We've got to thank Arnold Palmer and thank all the people who started the Champions Tour and who played it. And for Jack and for Lee and for Hale Irwin and for men who made the Champions Tour what it is, we've got to thank these men because it gives all of us a second lease in life, to be able to have a place where we can continue to compete, continue to compete against our friends that we've competed against for 30 years.

You know, it's just a joy to actually get out and still walk the fairways and to be able to compete. That's all we've ever done. That's all we've ever known, most of us. And that's why you see Tom Kite, he's still -- Vijay Singh out there on the range; he's probably hitting balls right now. He never quits. He hits more balls than any human I've ever seen.

I asked Tom, why do you continue to practice and hit balls? He looked me straight in the face and said, I want to get better. He was dead faced, dead serious. And the competitive fire in him still flows. Pretty amazing.

So that to us is -- it's just a joy to be able to continue to play and keep on going.

And I don't know -- you asked what I would be doing if I didn't have golf. Great question. To me it was only a one-way street. I only had one goal. I only had one plan. I was going to play the PGA TOUR and that was it. And if I didn't make it in golf I probably would have been a club pro or I would have been in the golf field somewhere. That's how much I just enjoyed golf.

I was hoping to make it playing, but if I was going to be a club professional, that was going to be okay with me as well.

Q. Just saw someone repeat as U.S. Open champion on the regular tour --
KENNY PERRY: He's motivated me. Brooks has motivated me. I'd like to go back-to-back just like Brooks did. That would be incredible.

Q. Why is it rare? Is it because the courses are so different?
KENNY PERRY: That's correct. The courses are different. It's the toughest test you'll face -- physically, mentally. This was the hardest walk. I needed oxygen out there today. I'm telling you, It seemed like every hole was uphill. It was a tough walk.

I'm telling you, guys who are playing well they could actually physically fatigue coming down the stretch. And you lose your legs, whatever, next thing you know you pull one of them drives out in the trouble and you're in trouble. So guys gotta be in shape this week.

Q. Coming up to altitude, do you change the ball you hilt or make any other sorts of adjustments?
KENNY PERRY: I thought about it. I play the Pro V, the all black ball, Titleist, and it spins less than the X, which is the red ball. I thought about putting it in play this week, just to try to get a little more spin on the golf ball, keep it in the air longer. But I didn't.

It went fine today. I had plenty of distance. And the ball stopped well on the greens. So I didn't see any reason to change.

Q. And what's the perspective from, obviously there's a Who's Who of golfers out there and the biggest galleries might be for John Smoltz, the baseball guy?
KENNY PERRY: I agree. That's quite an accomplishment. Hall of Famer in baseball, to be able to come out of baseball and to be able to qualify for this event. I actually played with Smoltz, Glavine and Maddux. That was the next year after I won the Bob Hope, one of my foursomes was that threesome. That's when they were all pitching so well in Atlanta.

I got to see Smoltz then. He hit it nine miles. Probably hit it 50 yards by me back then. He's probably still doing it now. He's very talented. It's an incredible accomplishment.

Q. Do you welcome the galleries for him?
KENNY PERRY: Definitely. No, no, they can -- if he brings more galleries, I'm all for that, we need more people to come out and support the Champions Tour.

Q. Putting comes and goes for everybody. I was talking to David Toms earlier in the day and he was talking about the streakiness of his putting. We've known him as a good putter for a long time.
KENNY PERRY: He's got the claw working. I thought I'd never see David Toms using the claw.

Q. What do you think has changed in your putting from when you won last year and --
KENNY PERRY: Here's what's happened with me. I had shoulder surgery November the 17th last year. So I was on the sidelines for six months.

This is basically about my sixth tournament back playing. And my ball strike -- I have no pain anymore. So my power's back. I got no problem hitting the golf ball. But it seems like I forgot how to score.

The little stuff that you take for granted, maybe a little chip here or just a three-footer that you needed to save par to kind of keep the round going.

What I found in these five weeks, I'm not doing any of that well. I'm not being able to continue to make the shot around the green or make the putt at the most crucial time to kind of keep the momentum going to where you can kind of build upon it.

And I really don't know what the answer is with the putter. I've tried a gazillion putters, heavier, lighter. I have not tried the claw grip or anything like that. I'm still traditional, the way I've always gripped the golf club for 30-something years.

I'm just a streaky putter. I don't know if my eyes have changed. That's one thing I'm curious, my vision is not as good, I can tell you just by looking out it's not as good as it used to be. I wear contacts. I've had LASIK twice. I wear a hard contact lens because I have astigmatism so bad. I don't know if my optics have changed a little bit.

The trouble is where I think I'm aiming the putter, it's always two inches left of where I think I'm aiming. And that's a big problem, especially on, like, a left-to-righter. If you're aiming left edge, it will usually start two inches out left and I'll miss it high every time.

And a right-to-lefter, you know, I might make it because -- or basically I'll pull it because it will start too far left and it will hook low every time.

And a lot of it has to do with my optics my aiming. And I don't know if my eyes have changed. That's just something I've been tinkering around with to try to get my eyes more underneath me, get the putter underneath me to see if it will change the look, the optics a little bit.

So my feel seems to be okay. But here you gotta really pay attention to that shrine and to that mountain because those greens going away from the mountain are extremely fast and they'll get away from you in a hurry.

Q. Given the things you've said about how it's a longer golf course and the greens are an acquired taste and you gotta get used to them, are you going to spend more time with the putter?
KENNY PERRY: Definitely. Yeah, I've spent probably two and a half hours yesterday on the putting green putting. I spent most of my time today in the practice round with three balls on the green going to all four quadrants, trying to make sure the mountain effect is working, trying to ease what my thought process is in my head.

But, like I said, you can probably play out here for four, five years and still not be comfortable on these greens at this speed. I think if they were a little bit slower you could be a little more aggressive and a little tighter to the hole, but now with them, as they speed up the ball's going to continue to break even more, you gotta really allow more breakage. It's going to be quite a challenge and I look forward to it.

Q. Does it ever make you pause enough to say, with the complexity of these greens, do you think about foregoing the guy who normally carries your bag and go to a caddie who has been around for a while?
KENNY PERRY: I asked Russ Miller if he would caddie for me. He said he would, but I didn't want to let my caddie down to take him. Russ is -- he's director of golf here -- great guy. He gave me a great 18-hole practice when I came out early a couple of months ago.

But he gave me the low down of the place. I've got a pretty good idea how to play the golf course. I just need to execute.

Q. When you were here last in May, you got up to the Broncos and the Rockies. And I know both of those groups gave you a jersey. Curious what happened to those jerseys and what was your trip like?
KENNY PERRY: Fantastic. I mean, I got a kick out of the Olympic Village. That, to me, getting to meet the skull rider, I guess -- the little dude that's on the sled with his -- skeleton. He told me he pulled six Gs on that bobsled course. I can't imagine -- I've been in a race car that pulled three Gs or drag car that pulled three Gs when I let the clutch out immediately, and that scared the life out of me. (Laughter) I can't imagine doing six with my face an inch off the ice. That was pretty incredible.

Then the paralympian I met, she showed me her prosthetic that -- she was a triathlete. She showed me the leg she used for biking and what she used for swimming. And then for running, she had a blade that she used for running.

And then she pulled out of her back pocket, she pulled out a gold medal. And I said, let me have that; I gotta hold that gold medal. And that dude was heavy. I didn't realize how heavy those things are. It was pretty cool.

Then boxing, I got to meet a couple of the boxers, and I wouldn't want to be hit by those guys. They are hitting that bag hard.

And then -- it was an awesome day. Then I got to go to the Broncos facility. I hit balls against a few of the Broncos out there, a 140-yard shot. Got to see their workout facility.

Then went to a Colorado Rockies game and I got to go into the dugout there and meet the skipper and a couple of the players. And it's pretty neat. You get out of your own element and you get into another guy's world, another -- it's pretty incredible to kind of be in their shoes a minute and see what they do. So more power to John Smoltz.

Q. Are you going to break out some purple or some blue and orange?
KENNY PERRY: On Sunday, I wish -- I didn't -- I actually told them at the Colorado Rockies I was going to wear purple. I better tell my wife to bring a purple shirt.

Q. You've defended a lot of titles in your career. How is it different defending a major, a senior major? Is it a different feeling?
KENNY PERRY: I didn't do very well defending in '13 out of Omaha. And I've only been able to defend one title in my whole career back-to-back. I won the 3M in Minnesota back-to-back years. I haven't had a lot of success backing it up. It's just a hard thing to do.

It's hard to get your game on point a year later with a different golf course. Everything's totally different, to be able to maximize your potential to be able to win the golf tournament again. Plus, I turn 58 here in about four weeks. And I'm not getting any younger.

So my golf stroke's getting -- too much bourbon or something's going on. (Laughter) I've got to figure out -- that Kentucky bourbon's getting me.

Q. I wonder if you feel like you have more of a bull's-eye on your back because you are the Senior Open champion as opposed to --
KENNY PERRY: No, I don't think it's a bull's-eye. I actually think it's a great title. It's a great honor. Mostly a lot of the guys -- like today I played with Sean and Bill -- Bill lives in Nashville, Billy Breen. He called me and said, I'd love to play a practice round with you. And I have a lot of the guys who are just your club pros or whatever, or assistants are just trying to make the tour out here, and coming up. And just they want to talk to me. And I think that's pretty cool that guys want to come up and talk to me, think that I'm important that they need to talk to me. So to me it's an honor, you know? I've enjoyed it.

Q. You missed some time with the shoulder surgery. What did you do when you were away from the golf course for those few months?
KENNY PERRY: I got seven grandkids, seven and under. So that was a lot of fun. I actually got closer to them.

I like old hot rods. I restore a lot of old cars. I actually finished up my '57 Chevy and a '55 Chevy. I was able to spend more time with them day on and day out, putting those together. And a lot of time with Sandy. And actually got to sleep in my bed for six months straight. I have never done that. That was kind of nice.

I've been on the road -- this is my seventh tournament. I've played seven weeks in a row. I've only been home for two days -- I think three days in the last seven weeks, basically because I've been out all year and I'm trying to get competitively sharp to play this week.

I was building everything up for this week. And hopefully what I have channeled in and done is ready to go. So I'm looking forward to it.

It was a great six months off. I did miss golf quite a bit. I wanted to go out and hit some balls and I knew I physically couldn't do it. And when something's taken away from you, you take for granted what you've done your whole life and it's taken away from you, you get a second lease on life. And you kind of realize -- I always threatened I was going to retire. Then after that six months off, I was, like, I still feel like I can compete and I've still got game and I still want to go get out there and try to win some more trophies. So it kind of motivated me a little bit, really.

Q. Given what you said about preparing, did you on purpose schedule three 18-hole practice days or --
KENNY PERRY: This week you mean? I flew in on Monday. I didn't play Monday. I only scheduled for today and tomorrow. And since I've already been here earlier with Russ, and he gave me the low down on how to play the golf course, I feel I had a heads-up on all the guys doing their homework on Monday and Tuesday. I felt like I wasn't as rushed. So that was nice.


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