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June 2, 2009
MARK STEVENS: We'd like to welcome Kenny Perry to the interview room. Kenny is defending champion and three-time champion to this event. In 1991, 2003, and of course last year. Kenny, if you would give some general comments about your thoughts coming into this week, and we'll take some questions.
KENNY PERRY: It's always an honor to come here. I've always -- you know, being my first win in 1991, this kind of solidified what I was doing in life was correct.
So I've always got special memories and feelings coming here. To be able to do what I did last year and get back in the Winner's Circle.
Actually came from behind last year, which was probably a first for me. Most of my wins, I've been out front. That was kind of neat. Always look forward to coming here. Jack's always got it in great shape, great conditions.
Played a practice round today. The rough wasn't as high as it was last year. So I think you'll see better scores this year. But the greens are still running, I would say. A very severe test. It's definitely a second shot golf course.
Q. Did you like it last year?
KENNY PERRY: I did.
Q. I know you liked the result.
KENNY PERRY: I like high rough because I think the driver is one of the better parts of my game. I like narrow fairways and tighter conditions.
I don't like it where the guys can bomb it and then just chip it out and get it on the green. If they hit it in the rough, you should be penalized for it.
Q. I guess you've played three times now since the masters. If there was a hangover, is it over? Is your game at the level it was at Augusta?
KENNY PERRY: No. I'm actually playing very poorly right now. I don't know quite what it is. I'm putting the time in.
I just don't -- you know, I'm a feel player. I'm a very streaky player. It seems like when I get hot, I get hot, and I can kind of hang onto it, and then it goes away.
I really didn't have a hangover from the Masters. I really didn't. I played okay at TPC. I didn't play well at Colonial, one of the spots I usually play pretty well at.
I've gotten a little glitch in my swing. I can't quite determine what it is right now. I'm hitting a lot of pulls. Their starting left of the flag and then they're hooking. My normal shot starts out right and comes to the flag. I don't know if it's a timing issue or a ball position, alignment. I'm not quite sure where I am right now.
I think I hit 16 bags of balls yesterday on the range.
Q. Plus talked to Jerry in the middle of it.
KENNY PERRY: He came in. He gave me a little rest period. So, you know, that's just the way I am. It will come back to me. It always has.
I keep it for a little while. It disappears. Why it goes away, I wish I knew the answer to that. I know this golf course very well. So hopefully my experience will get me around it.
Q. Kenny, I was talking to your caddie at the Masters, and he was talking about the various times you guys had worked together. He had said something about "And that was the first time Kenny was going to quit and go build his golf course." And he was talking about a period years and years and years ago. Had you almost given this up several times along the way? He gave me the impression that you were just going to go back to being Kenny the farmer, Kenny the golf course owner, and had kind of gotten tired of this along the way.
KENNY PERRY: I think we all get tired of our jobs at some time in our lives. It's not an easy game that we choose. It's not an easy sport. There's definitely more downs than there is ups in this job of mine.
You very seldom win out here. You know, I played my first tour event in 1984, got my card in '86.
You know, I've been here, done that. It was kind of fresh in the '90s and '80s. That was new. Everything was new to me. And then there was just times in my life when I was thinking, you know, there's got to be something else out there for me.
But there's too much competitive fire inside of me that I think I'm good enough to compete and be successful out here that keeps me going and keeps me pushing out here each and every week.
Yeah, there's times I thought about quitting, walking away from the game. But I think you can ask all those pros, and they're going to say the same thing. I could be wrong.
It's just tough. I mean, mentally just keep your head in the game week in and week out. And to stay sharp. Maybe I play too much. I play a lot out here.
You know, you look at Tiger and everybody, they only play -- they're off. I can't stay sharp that way. I've got to play my way into shape. That's kind of the way I've always done it.
I don't know. I seriously thought about sitting on the rocking chair. I've got rocking chairs out on the porch of my golf course. It's beautiful. We've got deer, turkey, squirrels. It's very peaceful, very serene place.
But I think I'd get fat. So I wouldn't want to do that.
Q. Kenny, when you get that glitch in your swing and you beat balls for five hours, do you have -- do you have another set of eyes?
KENNY PERRY: No. Yesterday I put clubs on the ground. That's just kind of the way I do it. I put a club to the ground. One's at the target. One's where my feet need to be.
What I noticed was I was too open in that address. Ball position was wrong in my stance. Kind of noticed a couple of things I was off in, where optically I've gotten off where I thought I was correct in.
Actually hit a couple of good shots today on the golf course. Out of 18 holes, I didn't hit many good ones. They were the right. I actually picked the ball up out on my eyesight on the right.
I've hit so many balls for so long, I pick it up early. I know where the ball should be in my eyeline, but I'm picking it up over here to the left right now.
I actually hit a couple that were nice. I was working on the range before I came in here. I'm starting to hit one or two where it should be. I'm just not sharp. You know, I'm not as sharp as I was coming in here last year.
But, you know, it only takes one thought, one swing with me to say that's it. I've done that many a times. I'll be off for a week, and all of a sudden, I'll hit one golf shot. I can feel that right back, and I can repeat that.
Q. You've never used anybody else to help you?
KENNY PERRY: Norman Head taught me for 25 years, and he passed away. Now I'm using Matt Killen, a young kid, 23-year-old kid that works with me and Shaun Micheel and J.B. Holmes and Azinger. He's a good -- we have the V-1 system. I actually put a camera behind me and a camera to the side.
I've got my swings data logged all the way back to 1999. So I can split screen, I can put up a swing from 2003 when I won good. When I put one or five or eight. And I can put my swing against it now, and I can actually see movement that I'm doing differently now, as opposed to when I was playing well. And Matt is here this week, and I'm going to work with him in the morning.
Q. Kenny, this is a second shot golf course. Given that you've hit the drive that you want, what is the toughest second shot here?
KENNY PERRY: Toughest hole toughest second shot?
Q. Toughest second shot.
KENNY PERRY: The greatest short hole, in my opinion, is 14. The back right pin. That -- it won't really paralyze you because you're only hitting a short iron. But, you know, you miss it a little left in that bunker or a little long in the rough, you can't get up and down.
So that's a very demanding shot. But, you know, I love the par 3s here. I think number 4 is a terrific par 3.
You've got these little narrow greens. You're hitting 5 iron in here with a green slope pitching pretty hard from right to left. That's a difficult hole.
6 is a tough par 4. You've got, when that pin's over there on the left, you know, you've hit a drive. You've got 6 iron, 7 iron. I've hit as much as 4 iron based on wind or weather. You're trying to carry the creek.
These greens are 13 on the Stimpmeter. They're very difficult. I could probably sit here and name them all. Each hole. 1, 2, 3. They all have their plateaus and tiering.
Q. Is there one you'd prefer to pass on if you could? That is to say, I don't have to play this.
KENNY PERRY: Give me a birdie and let me go to the next one.
Q. I'll give you a par.
KENNY PERRY: Let's see here. Probably 12. 12 is the hole that scares me the most. Because it's hard -- you've got to pull the right club.
That back bunker is almost impossible to get up and down out of it. It's very -- the green's wide, but yet it's not very deep. So that's a very tough hole.
Q. Kenny, I know you talked about this earlier this morning. What do you suppose this playoff wedge thing from Phoenix has taken on such a life of its own on the Internet? I don't know that I've heard you talk about it. I was wondering what your take on all that is and why it won't go away.
KENNY PERRY: Well, I mean, I said the truth will set you free. I looked at it, and I thought it was crazy, my first impression.
I went to Charlie Hoffman, and I asked Charlie. Charlie, do you have a problem with it? That would be the only guy, if he had a problem with it, it would have really upset me, if he thought something was done wrong there.
He said that's crazy. You didn't do nothing wrong. Patted me on the back. And saw the Tour came out -- I wasn't in the closed door. The Tour went in. I wasn't with the Tour staff when they made their -- they shot back with their remark saying, we saw nothing wrong. I mean, I just let it go.
That's life, isn't it? People like to bring up dirty laundry, I guess.
Q. You were just trying to figure out how high the grass was and where the crowd was?
KENNY PERRY: You're allowed to. You're able to sole your club. Did you watch it? Did you actually watch that last hole?
Q. Everybody has seen it.
KENNY PERRY: I soled my club on the ball. Did you watch me sole it left of the golf ball? Then I went and hit the shot. When you're in the rough, you just need to find the bottom so you can figure out how high the ball is sitting up in rough.
Q. You kind of hit a chunky running shot out of there anyway. It wasn't like you hit some spinner that stuck it a foot from the hole, right?
KENNY PERRY: I hit it 25 feet from the hole. It's not like I hit a great shot. I mean, I don't know. What do you all think? Someone brings something up four months down the road. I didn't understand. We're going to go looking in the archives of all the players who have been on TV and see what they've done? I didn't understand that part of it.
I've got a camera guy five feet behind me. He's right there looking. I turned around and looked at him.
If I thought I was doing something wrong, I definitely wouldn't have done it there.
Q. When was this brought to your attention?
KENNY PERRY: When I finished the Sunday round at the Players. They came and told me about it. I was just stunned.
Q. Did they just walk up to you and say, by the way, you didn't cheat?
KENNY PERRY: No. They said you're going to have to answer some questions about this video. I didn't quite understand.
Rick George came and talked to me. And then I met with Alex Miceli. He was out there. And talked about have you heard anything about this video? Which I didn't know.
And then the Tour came out with their saying there was nothing been done wrong here.
Once that was -- I didn't hear nothing about it after that. There was nothing else said. So I just assumed it was dead.
Q. I was curious if during the U.S. Open last year if you watched any of it. Obviously, you weren't there. Just wondered if you watched any of it and if you got interested at all in what was going on with Tiger, and if you were amazed at what he pulled off. You know, on one leg basically.
KENNY PERRY: Well, I think at first we all -- you know, we're never amazed at what he does. He's pretty incredible, what he can do at any time.
But then what blew me away when I heard exactly how severely his knee was hurt, you know, is it an act when he was hitting his shot? You'd see him grimace and wince. You know, we're all hurt out here. We all play in pain. At least I do, play in pain.
But you never know the extent of the injury. And then when I heard how bad it was, I was like that's incredible. That was pretty amazing. He can suffer -- that had to hurt because it's your left knee. It's your brace knee. That's when you're really attacking the golf ball. My knee was my right knee in '06 when I had my surgery. It was my push knee.
Yet when you're firing off your knee, it relieved the pressure as you're coming into the golf ball where his is catching the heat of your whole weight. You're snapping it and holding it and firing. You've got to hold yourself up. That had to be very painful. To me, that impressed me more than anything.
Q. You of all people probably can't be surprised it's taken him a little while to kind of get the mojo back. You were -- you weren't yourself for months.
KENNY PERRY: Vijay came to me and talked a long time about it. He said, how long did it take you? I keep hitting it left, left. That was the first thing I told him in the locker room before he started playing. Vijay, you're going to hit it left. He said, I can't stop it going left.
What happens is your body compensates. You can't hold yourself up. You just give it up and start pulling everything. You can't hold yourself up. You can't fire through the golf ball and clear and keep the club in behind you.
So you end up throwing the club, you know, and you end up pulling everything.
Q. Want to ask you a couple questions about the Open. What do you recall about Bethpage in '02? Are you looking forward to going back?
KENNY PERRY: I am. I'm going early. I'm going next week. Wednesday or Thursday I'll fly up there and start preparing.
I did that at Augusta. I went in four days early.
What I remember, I don't remember a birdie hole. That's what I really remember. I remember it was damp. It was wet. It was long. The rough was you had to chip it out, and the greens were just super fast. So typical U.S. Open. Narrow fairways, fast greens.
Q. Is playing before that gallery on a public golf course different than any other gallery?
KENNY PERRY: Definitely. New York too. That gallery is very vocal. They'll definitely -- if you challenge them, they will be all over you.
So you just acknowledge and, yeah, I stink today or whatever.
Q. And lastly, what do you think of Mike Davis, the way he set up the golf course the last -- I guess since Winged Foot ? Do you notice the difference?
KENNY PERRY: I think they've gotten softer. They've actually got it to be a lot fairer. It's been a better test. They're getting it right, in my opinion?
They're starting to realize it's, you know, given us some opportunities. I think Augusta did a marvelous job giving him some opportunities and bringing some excitement back in the game.
I think the U.S. Open has gotten better from -- you know, they kind of lost it in '04. It was, you know, the ball. He couldn't hit that one green. It would go off the green every time.
So I think, you know, they're going to try to make it a better test, a fairer test. I guess they want even par to be their number. That's kind of their base score or 1 over to win.
What I've looked at from '04 to now, I think they're doing a better job to make it a fairer test for us.
Q. If you look at Winged Foot and Oakmont, whatever you recall from that, did you think it was a fair but stern test?
KENNY PERRY: A couple of the holes were over the top, I thought. You know, when you're only given maybe a five-yard area to land the golf ball, that's pretty tough. You know, there's no bailout.
I guess it should be. It's a major championship. And, you know, usually the best players going to win in the Open, the guy who drives it the straightest and putts it the best. .
Actually, I think they've kind of softened a little bit. I don't see as sharp of edges as they were in '04. I think they're getting it right now.
Q. Did any of the locals challenge you, or did any of them give you the business there?
KENNY PERRY: No. I was like that little fly on the wall. I was just kind of -- you know, I was leaving them alone because I'm the kind of guy that kind of runs from confrontation. I don't really like to get in anybody's face. But it's an exciting crowd. You know, I remember Scott Hoch making a hole -- he was the group in front me. He was wearing the Tabasco shirt with the skyline of New York City on it, and he made a hole in one on, what was it, 17? That was pretty awesome.
The galleries are great. They love feel. He was close to me, and he had a huge following. They were very vocal.
It can be intimidating, but yet, if they get on your side and get to pulling for you, it can actually help you too.
Q. What do you think it will be like with Phil and the circumstances he's in there now?
KENNY PERRY: I think he'll get a lot of outpouring of love. I really do. It will be phenomenal when he steps out there.
The applause, the amount of support they'll show him that week. It will be unbelievable. They really loved him when he was there.
Q. One other thing about Mike Davis. When you were watching last year on television, what was it that you noticed about anything in particular about his setup?
KENNY PERRY: I didn't play last year.
Q. I know. But you watched it on TV.
KENNY PERRY: You know, I've never played Torrey Pines very well. I don't know how he set it up different than when I played the Buick there. I know he did set up that one hole that made it -- you could actually drive it. What was that, 14 or so? Which is something we've never gotten the opportunity to do, which I thought was a pretty neat idea.
Just by watching it on TV, it looked very playable and very scorable. Even though they didn't shoot very much under to win. What were they? 1 under?
I think that's kind of their target score. I think they wanted to set the course up to even par is your winner.
You know, the guys that I talked to that played there thought it was set up great.
Q. Kenny, with the rough here last year and the wind that came up and the speed of the greens, I think your winning score was the highest in a long time. What you've seen out there now, the way they've got the course set up this year -- and I know a lot of it depends on the weather. But what do you think scoring is going to be like with a lower rough?
KENNY PERRY: I think it will be 12 to 15. That's kind of the normal, the target score here, normally where we fall.
I've seen the forecast. Thursday through Sunday is going to be nice, very pleasant, very warm. You know, we've had some really tough conditions here in this tournament in the past. A lot of breezy, blustery northeast to northwest winds.
When you get that kind of wind out there, it's a very demanding, very difficult golf course.
The greens are fast. They're going to be 13. I talked to the superintendent yesterday. But the rough -- they told me it's a half inch shorter than last year, but yet it plays like it's a lot shorter, in my opinion.
You're going to see guys actually moving it very well out of the rough this week.
Q. I don't think it's as December as it was last year.
KENNY PERRY: It's pretty thin. You're going to see guys hit it as far as they want to. If they get it in the rough, they're going to be able to get it on the green.
That said, you've got a very firm 13, you know, speed green. You'd better get some kind of spin on it, or you're not going to be able to keep it on the green. I think the score will be typical, is it to 15 usual willy wins here.
Q. What kind of game are you expecting from yourself this week?
KENNY PERRY: Hopefully a good one.
You know what, I like coming here because it's a great driver's golf course, and that's always the strength of my game. I usually hit lots of fairways.
And then like I said earlier, it's a second shot golf course. I understand that course. I know how to play it. I know the plateaus. I know where to shape the shot, what side of the hole to keep it on and keep close to the pin. I think it takes a lot of experience to do well here.
You may see a first-timer do well. I played with a couple of them today, Kevin Streelman and Chris Stroud, which thought was kind of neat. They were picking my brain to try to figure out how I've been so successful around this golf course for the last 20 years. I think this is my 21st event here.
Anyway, if I can get my golf game back and get my swing comfortable, I look forward to playing well. I always usually play well here.
Q. Are they furrowing the bunkers? I didn't have a chance.
KENNY PERRY: The bunkers are normal. No furrowing. You'll see a lot of good bunker play this week.
Q. Kenny, obviously, this tournament with the name and Nicklaus behind it and the course, there's a lot of prestige and tradition that comes with it. Is there something in particular that makes it even more special? You know, something that for the players themselves that, when they come here, they feel more special than on another event?
KENNY PERRY: I kind of saw it today in my two rookies. Their eyes were wide open. They couldn't believe how great the golf course was, how well they were treated in the locker room. How well the range is, the practice facilities.
I think what people don't realize, this is a total package you get here. Not only do you have the great Jack Nicklaus that you can go up and talk to and thank him, and he supports us.
Then you've got a world class facility around you. He does it right. From the food to whatever, you know, they just couldn't get the grin off their face.
And it has a feel -- you know, Jerry and I were talking about this yesterday. The feel of this tournament to me, maybe because it means so much to me. I always felt like it was like a major. It had something extra special than just your normal tour event to me.
MARK STEVENS: Kenny has to get going to Jack's clinic on the range. Thank you for your time. Good luck again this year.
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