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July 8, 2009
DOUG MILNE: We'd like to welcome the defending champion of the John Deere Classic Kenny Perry in. Thanks for joining us for a few minutes. Last year obviously a fantastic year for you, and this year you're kind of continuing right where that left off. Recently you won at the Travelers Championship, obviously a big win for you there. You've been wanting that one for a long time. Just a couple comments on the state of your game as you're back here to defend this week.
KENNY PERRY: Well, I mean, game is good. I had a nice week off. I spent the weekend with my family. My youngest daughter who's a senior at SMU was in study abroad in Italy. She just got home, so we had a nice 4th of July weekend I got to spend with my three kids, so nice week off.
I'm excited about being back. Great golf course, I love coming here. I've always had a lot of success here at this tournament at both golf courses, and it's nice to finally get a win.
Q. Talk about the title defense and added pressures that come with it and your success, your past history and track record of defending titles.
KENNY PERRY: I don't think my defenses have been great to tell you the truth. Out of my 13, I guess -- well, actually it's only going to be 12, I won two this year, so I think I've had a few Top 10s that I can remember. But I've really not challenged to win that tournament again this year as defending.
But it always brings back great memories. I'll never forget the playoff with Brad and Jay Williamson here on Sunday of last year. This was a steppingstone to getting me to my ultimate goal, the Ryder Cup, to get back in the winner's circle again. So that was huge for me here.
I enjoys coming back here for media day. I was impressed. It was probably the biggest media day that I've ever been a part of when I came back earlier this year.
There's a lot of good friends here. The tournament is run great. I love the golf course. D.A. did a great job with this golf course. It's fun to play.
It was in great shape yesterday. It was firm, it was fast, and now we're having all this rain. It just seems like we can't get away from weather this year, from Bethpage which was a nightmare trying to play that golf tournament, and then we played real wet conditions up in Hartford and had some delays there with lightning.
But I look forward to the challenge. I'm just kind of going along here just doing my job and enjoying it and shaking a lot of hands and having the time of my life.
Q. Is it harder to defend the title?
KENNY PERRY: No, I don't think it's harder to defend. I just think it's a year later. Physically your life has changed, your game has changed. There's just too many variables there. The golf course will play differently. The state of mind you're in, mentally. You just don't see it happening a lot. I mean, there's a few guys that will defend here and there, but in the big scheme of things, you just don't see many people defend their title.
Q. Sounds like you were certainly comfortable in Hartford staying with the family that I heard you talking about in Connecticut given the power outage and all the storms you went through. Comfort here, as well, it seems that that's going to translate to good things on the course?
KENNY PERRY: Well, I think so. I was raised in a small town. Family is very important to me, and it just seems like when I get to places I feel comfortable at and I can relax, I seem to have a little success.
That family last week in Hartford I've stayed with for 21 years. They've got four kids, the youngest kid at the time was four months old when I showed up, and now she's 22 or 211/2. She's a senior in college or whatever. And the other three kids have children now. They're all married. Pretty neat story. Steve and Martha are just great people. I admire them and I look up to them. They spoil me rotten when I get there.
We went through a tornado which was unbelievable. It hit not far from the house. It blew big trees down in their yard, and we all ran for shelter down in their shelter and came back up, and within a minute or five minutes everything was destroyed. It was incredible.
So then it got dark at 9:00 o'clock, and it was weird, it was like -- when I was a kid you just had a little battery powered radio and you were listening to sports or something, and you went -- I went to bed at 9:00 o'clock that night, 9:00 or 9:30, so that was kind of interesting.
Q. Do you feel how much the community here embraces you and just your style?
KENNY PERRY: Well, I hope so. I mean, yesterday when I played a practice round with Zach, it was pretty cool. You know, I had a lot of people coming up wanting me to repeat and thanking me for coming. So that makes you feel good.
You know, I guess I've really never had much of a fan base until the Masters. When I lost the Masters it seemed like my fan base doubled. And then to get back in the winner's circle and then to have the support of everybody, it's been a great experience for me.
Q. You've played this tournament before. When you look at the field this week, how do you size it up? This is one of the best fields I think they've ever had.
KENNY PERRY: Well, to be honest, I haven't even looked at who's here. If it's a great, strong field, I'm excited, because this is one of my favorite places to play. I wouldn't ever think about skipping it unless there was some kind of physical or family problem.
You know what, I stayed with Corky and Cheryl Kress here for a long time. They're good friend of me. Corky passed away, but I'm still pretty good friends with that family.
I'm excited for the tournament. If the tournament has a strong field, I'm excited, because it's good for it. It deserves it. The John Deere is a great sponsor, and they deserve a quality field here.
Q. Have you looked at how your PGA TOUR schedule might change after you turn 50?
KENNY PERRY: Not really. I've had that question asked a lot. Am I going to play next year when I turn 50. I'm exempt out here until I'm 54, I think, through all my wins, and I have top 25 all-time money and top 50 all-time money. That's two years more of exemption.
I don't know, I'll see how my wife likes it on the Senior Tour. She's kind of the mother hen on this TOUR. She contacts all the young girls and shows them around, and she loves it. She's got a lot of great friends over here, so it'll be tough for her to go to the Senior Tour. But all my friends I learned to play golf with are all on the Senior Tour, so I'm kind of torn, split between both tours.
My life, I was in an era when Jack and Lee Trevino and Arnie, they were all still playing when I first came out as a rookie, and they've moved on out, and now I'm in the era of Mickelson and Tiger and this era, so it's been great to watch all that and experience that and enjoy it.
I can't answer that question right now. I mean, I just have to go out there next year and play a few events and see how I feel out there. But my heart is still kind of out here. I mean, I still would like to get 20 wins somehow. I threw that number out there as kind of an unrealistic goal but I threw it out there to beat. It was at eight, now six. Six more to go, so we're getting closer.
Q. You talked about the Masters. How do you come back so strong after being so disappointed?
KENNY PERRY: Well, it was my '96 experience at the PGA when I lost to Mark Brooks. That threw me off course for about three years. Two years I was in that I-don't-want-to-care kind of syndrome, where I just had fun at Augusta. To me that was the thrill of a lifetime. It was an opportunity of a lifetime, and it didn't happen, but I didn't think -- it was not life or death. To me it was just golf.
I pushed that aside in about three days. I thought a little bit about it the next day and talked to -- what hurt me more about that deal was how my kids were suffering and how upset they were. But to me, you know, it's not -- to me winning and losing doesn't mean that much to me anymore. I want to win. I'm as competitive as ever. If I win, great; if I lose, fine.
You know, I've got other issues in my life right now with sick parents, I've got my sister fighting breast cancer. There's a lot of issues that to me are more important than winning or losing a golf tournament.
I was able to put a lot of things in perspective just typically about life.
Q. Would the Kenny Perry of 20 years have reacted so well?
KENNY PERRY: No, I reacted terribly in '96. If I would have had this 20 years ago I would have acted terrible, and if I would have lost the PGA or whatever, this year or any time in the future, it's really not going to be devastating to me anymore.
Q. You talked about being conflicted about some things. How about next week?
KENNY PERRY: Yeah, Milwaukee is one of my favorite tournaments. I got criticized pretty hard for skipping the British last year to stick to my commitment to Milwaukee. You know, it's hard to leave a place that means a lot to you. I've been there, I've won there. That tournament has done a lot for me in my career, just advancing me along and making me a better player, a better person. The people who run that tournament are great.
The golf course is fun. It's a public golf course. I own a public golf course, so it's pretty cool to be able to play on a public facility and have a TOUR event on it. That means a lot to me.
So I'm torn this year. I mean, this might be the last year of that tournament. I would love to be there to celebrate the last year if I could, but I guess the pressures that were on me last year are on me again this year, so I just -- I didn't want to sit there and listen to the talking heads just wearing me out again. It comes to a point to where you just want to go hit somebody, it really does.
These people have a lot of power in what they say, but to me it's wrong. But anyway...
Q. Did your Ryder Cup success kind of help drive that, as well, because now you're recognized as one of those Americans?
KENNY PERRY: Well, the Ryder Cup was a mulligan to me because I lost the PGA at Valhalla, and I had a chance to go back to the state of Kentucky, everybody kind of remembered me from my loss at Valhalla, but now they don't remember me for that at all. They remember me for helping the American team win the Cup back. To me that was the greatest thrill of my life.
I had my dad there. He walked up on the 16th green after I beat Henrik there, gave me the biggest hug. Everybody saw him in his bib overalls. That was pretty special. I'll never forget that smile he had on his face. That was huge. That was huge for my career. I think that was huge for the state of Kentucky. But I've noticed everywhere I go, people thank me for the Ryder Cup. So obviously it's probably the most viewed tournament in the world, and golf-wise, I don't know how many viewers. I've heard it's one of the biggest. So I guess I gained a fan base there, too, and then with the Masters it's kind of snowballed.
Q. Over the last couple years you have sustained a level. There's been very few valleys, a lot of peaks. You've sustained at a high level. What is it about your preparation, your swing or your mentality that lets you keep it up there almost all the time? You think you're going to win, you're going to contend to win? You've played pretty much your top game for about two years.
KENNY PERRY: I think it's been a combination of a lot of things. I've been healthy for one. I had that knee surgery in '06 that really kind of wrecked me for 06 and '07. The kids are great. I walked my oldest down the aisle in November, so she's married. My son is graduated. My little girl is a senior at SMU.
I told Sandy -- it's just me and my wife traveling all the time now, and I've been able to kind of rededicate myself to golf. I am actually practicing a whole lot more than I used to practice in the '90s and the early 2000s, and I was able to just kind of rededicate myself to see what it's all about. It's kind of like we're newlyweds again. It was kind of like the first few years on TOUR when it was just strictly golf, then the kids came, and then they didn't want me to leave, so I was torn between being a father, a good parent and trying to do my career.
And now the kids are good. They're doing their deal. So Sandy and I have just been able to refocus on golf. And I think that's been the biggest reason I've been able to kind of rededicate myself to the game again.
Q. Danny Lee was here yesterday, and he said a nice anecdote about you. He said, well, you told him the harder you try, the more difficult it is for the ball to go in the hole. He also said Kenny is such an old man, but he meant old like revered. How do you feel when young guys come to you?
KENNY PERRY: I'm honored. I like that mentoring mentality. I have a lot of kids that want to play practice rounds with me now. They want to just kind of get the inside scoop of what I'm thinking, what I'm feeling. I hit balls next to Danny on the range yesterday, and I was aggravating him about the AT&T. I said, why did you want to keep hitting that one bunker shot over and over again on that one hole? He left it in the bunker about three times.
He ended up finishing really good there, and he just grinned. I'm the guy that kind of aggravates him. I guess I kind of stick the needle in him a little bit. Kind of like to have a lot of fun with him. And they respect me. They give me a lot of respect, and to me that shows my gray hair, I guess.
I've been out here a long time. You know, I just enjoy playing with them. I just enjoy trying to show them the ropes and trying to make them better players as well as better people, better individuals, better man.
Q. Going into the playoff last year, were you in position -- early back last year you lost a tough one and in other playoffs. Did that put you in position of advantage over Brad and Jay?
KENNY PERRY: In the playoff here? Oh, that was hilarious. I had such a grin on my face standing on that 18th tee box. I just screwed up the last hole again. I was sculling chips last year coming in if you remember. I was on that tee box, and all I could do was look at Jay and look at Brad, and they were nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof. They just couldn't stay still, they were antsy, and I was just chuckling inside. I was just thinking, wow, these kids have never won a golf tournament, and it's really on them right now.
I don't have anything else to prove. I played well, and if I won, great; if I lost, great. It wasn't going to tear me up one way or another.
But I just saw it in their swings immediately. Brad flared it off to the right, and Jay hit it right down the middle, but then his next shot, perfect shot, 6-iron, whatever, he hit it 30, 40 yards left into the lake over there right in the middle of the lake. It's not because -- he was just nervous, that's all it was. It came down to nerves.
Q. Is that where your attitude is, no matter what the weather is here this week, it's rain, it's this, it's that, that's not really going to bother you one way or the other, is it?
KENNY PERRY: Well, it'll bother me. I don't like rain. But like I said, it's just to me -- I've laid the groundwork. I've worked my butt off these 23 years, and I'm just kind of smelling the roses along the way now. I'm actually enjoying the game. I'm enjoying golf. I'm enjoying life a little bit.
I know, I've just got a different perspective, different mentality. Great things have been happening like this. I wish I would have had this 20 years ago.
Q. But through your enjoyment, you're truly inspiring people worldwide, and that's got to be really special to you.
KENNY PERRY: Very much so, very gratifying. It's neat when the world is watching.
Q. You mentioned that you're comfortable with where your game is right now. What specifically do you like about the way you're hitting the ball right now, and how does it compare to a year ago?
KENNY PERRY: Well, I've always been very good from tee to green my whole career, and my putting is what's always held me back. Ever since this guy gave me this putter two years ago -- I don't know if y'all know the story, a gentleman at my club in Vero Beach at Bent Pine, came up and handed me this putter and said, "You need to putt with this. I think it would really help you." I had about five putters laying on the greens, I had belly putters, I putted with belly for a while.
This old putter was all beat up Ping Craz-E, and it had a grip on it that was -- it had shreds on it. You can tell the guy just completely wore it out and he just didn't like it anymore. I don't know if he truly meant for it -- if he truly believed that. He just wanted something different for me.
And I said, "Sure, I'll take it." When he wasn't looking I threw it in the trunk of my car, and I went back to all of my other stuff. I was putting poorly, so I said, Hey, I'll give this putter a try. I put a grip on it, and next thing you know I win three tournaments this summer, the Ryder Cup, the Shark Shootout, two tournaments this year.
So we're at Bent Pine, and I'm at the snack shack there, I'm inside the clubhouse, and I see this Styrofoam container that's got a sandwich and chips in it, and it's got Paul Hargarten on it. I told the ladies, "Put this on my tab here," and I wrote on it, I said, "Paul, now we're even." So it's sitting right there on the table, and I'm hiding over there in the corner. He comes in, he picks it up, and he's just kind of looking at it, and he's looking around and he sees me over in the corner. He comes over to me, and he holds it right in front of me, and he says, "Now, does this look like $5 million?" So I said, I don't know how to answer that one, but you're right.
It's been pretty amazing what I've done with that putter.
My game has really improved because of the putting. It's not been the ball-striking. My ball-striking has always been consistent from year in and year out.
Q. Is it a feel with the putter, a weight issue?
KENNY PERRY: The putter has an insert in it that to me I would say is very dead. It's not lively at all. And I've noticed the older I've gotten, I've kind of got a little hitch in my right hand where when I get a little under the gun, it wants to kind of fire away at me. I can kind of let that putter into it a little bit, and the ball will not race past the hole. It doesn't really get away from me like it did in the past.
I've shut my three-putting down. I still three-putt a lot, but not like I used to. But I'm making a lot more putts now. So that's been the big difference.
Q. So has Paul gotten anything other than lunch?
KENNY PERRY: You know, when you win a putter with a Ping, you get a gold one, a replica in gold. I presented him -- I went down to the club. We had a Paul Hargarten Day, and I presented him with one of the gold putters.
Q. What do you make of what David Duval did at Bethpage?
KENNY PERRY: Well, I saw it coming. I've been playing some practice rounds with David. He's hitting it beautifully.
You know, to me I don't think it's more physical as it is how much he wants it, how much drive does he have, how much is he wanting to work at it again. His golf swing looks like it used to when he was dominating. He's changed his physical -- he looks like he did when he first came out on TOUR. He lost all that weight in the middle part when he was No. 1 in the world, and now he's gained his weight back, and he looks a lot like he did when he came out in college.
You know what, when a guy is that talented and that good and he's left the game for a while, I've actually got to believe it's more personal than it is -- he has another agenda, maybe he's tired of the golf life, or he just wanted to do other things. Now it looks like he's motivated again to get back out here.
I actually thought he was going to win the Open. To me, just watching him on Sunday there, I thought he was going to do it. Almost. But he's definitely back, and he'll definitely see a lot more out of him.
DOUG MILNE: Kenny, we always appreciate your time. Thanks.
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