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May 25, 2011

Kenny Perry


KELLY ELBIN: Kenny Perry, Kentucky native and Bluegrass State resident, joining us at the 72nd Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid. Kenny, welcome back to Valhalla. Great memories here, how does it feel to be back, just, what, two and a half years removed from an unbelievable Ryder Cup experience, I would imagine it's pretty special.
KENNY PERRY: Yeah, this place is pretty special to me. I have a lot of history. Like he said, the Ryder Cup was probably the highest of highs I ever had in golf. The celebration in the tent that was built just next door to this one was pretty phenomenal what went on that week.
Then to lose the '96 PGA to Mark Brooks was probably the lowest of lows for me.
So I had it all here, I had a lot of emotions, a lot of roller coasters, but all in all I played well. I played well then, even though I lost; I played well in the Ryder Cup, looking forward to another great we can hear. I love Jack Nicklaus golf courses. And I'm excited. I'm just ready to get going and celebrate with all my home folks here in Kentucky.
KELLY ELBIN: Weather obviously a factor so far. You had some good finishes coming in this week. How's your game right now?
KENNY PERRY: Well I'm getting better. I hired -- for the past year and a half I been just mediocre golf, nothing great, so I hired a new swing coach or an old swing coach, we started working a couple weeks before Shoal Creek and the Legends, so I finished second in the Legends, fifth at Shoal Creek.
So I've gotten into some problems and we're working them out. And he's here this week so we spent a long time on the range today, still trying to get my swing back to where it used to be when I was playing well from 2003 through 2009.
And it's a tough process. You get old, things don't work the same way anymore, and I'm trying to figure all that back out again. So hopefully I can eventually carry it from the range to the golf course. I haven't been able to do that quite yet, I still hit some poor golf shots, I hit a lot of good quality golf shots, but I can't seem to get it all together right now.
So hopefully the magic will show up here this week and a lot of good things will happen and we'll get back into the thick of things again and I'll start getting in the hunt a little bit more and playing a little bit better golf.
So that's what I'm looking forward to. I really worked hard on that up to this week, it's just -- my fault lately is I didn't want to be embarrassed when I go out and play and I've been hitting such poor shots. And I'm starting to actually see the golf ball come out of my right eye now shaped like I used to shape it.
So I'm not perfect, I'm not going to, I'm not where I used to be, but it's getting better. I'm looking forward to the challenge I guess of this week. Hopefully the weather's not going to kill this tournament tonight and I don't know how much rain's coming in here, so hopefully we're not going to have to play lift, clean and place, because that always changes the, changes how the golf course will play.
I'm just ready to go. I played pretty good in the pro-am, I played a good nine holes, I played the back nine today. I hit it pretty good. But like I said, I just need to carry over this work, practice rounds are easy you don't have a lot of pressure and you're just letting it fly. Somehow I need to kind of take that mentality into tomorrow's round.
KELLY ELBIN: Open it up for questions.

Q. Can you talk about how difficult it is playing right now with the conditions and compare with it being so wet out there and obviously you can't predict or you don't know what's going to happen tonight, but how it might play tomorrow when we get more rain?
KENNY PERRY: Well the rough is brutal for one thing. The rough is really high. The ball, every ball I hit plugged. It was embedded, I had to pick it up and clean it and place it. So if we get more rain, obviously that's going to be the same.
So the golf course is going to play its maximum length and it's all going to be up to the PGA to determine are they going to move us up tee boxes or let us play the length of the golf course.
And it will definitely give me an advantage if we play full length. So, but it's going to be -- what it will help though is the greens. The green complexes are very difficult here, but they will be soft. They will actually receive golf shots coming in there.
So there's going to be a little give and take there, but I still think it's going to be difficult. A lot of guys are going to have to be hitting hybrids and woods into a lot of these holes.
And Jack, I love Jack's course because you got to play, it's a second shot golf course and you got plateaus you got to keep the ball on and it's very difficult and very demanding.
So it's just all depends on how they length wise how they set it up. If they keep the par-3s back where they're long, and they keep the tee boxes on the par-4s back, it's going to be a very demanding test.
And like always. Our two PGAs I played in here were very demanding, but they were very firm, very fast. So I never played this golf course under these conditions, so I don't really know thousand answer that question very well, so.

Q. Two things, first, with the forecast that we have obviously nobody wants the rain, but given your length, you know that's going to be an advantage for you. Do you lick your chops at all when you think of that; and secondly what would it mean to win here? I know in 2008 you talked about you kind of felt like you settled a score with Valhalla with the Ryder Cup win. What would it mean this week?
KENNY PERRY: Well it would mean everything to me. I've tried and I've fought and tried and I just can't get over the hump. Whatever it is, I've had a lot of good wins, but they're just good wins. My two Majors I could have won, the PGA and the Masters, I blew on the last couple holes coming in. And I got to figure out somehow to get over the hump.
Obviously I'm not trying to downplay this event or anything, it won't rank as high as my PGA or Masters if I could have won one of those if I could win here, but if I win here at this stage of my career where I am it will be the biggest win I've ever had, because I didn't get the job done. I didn't get it done in those two events.
So if I can somehow figure out how to put it together and make it happen this week, this will be a huge victory for me. And seeing where I have come from from the past year and a half, I won three times in 2008, twice in 2009, and then I haven't even been close. I mean I'm not even competitive anymore.
I'm like I just disappeared. I turned 50 and like I didn't know how to play anymore, I just quit. I just couldn't figure it out. I don't know what happened. So to me it's, it would be a huge accomplishment, to come in here and beat these guys in front of all my friends and family.
The victory celebration of the Ryder Cup was incredible with all the people here that I knew. So I got to somehow make it more like a celebration and just I'm trying to approach it this week to where I'm thanking everybody for their support of me over the past 26 years that I played on the PGA.
I signed a lot of Ryder Cup memorabilia this week, it's amazing how many people -- Kentucky fans are the best. So I'm just going to, hopefully, I just want to get in the mix. I just hopefully somehow Sunday I can be battling for the win.
I haven't got there much this year, only chance I had to win was the team tournament, so that's a team event, that's really not an individual deal. So I had Scott to lean on a little bit when I was out of the holes.
But it will be pretty emotional, I would say. I reflect a lot about my life and my career now. I kind of look back a lot. And I wonder what if this would have happened, what if that would have happened, where would my career have gone.
So I don't know, maybe that's age. I'm a granddaddy now, so I got grand kids, that's kind of changed my perspective in life a little bit.
But I just want to go have fun somehow. I want to be able to just -- my old game was point and shoot, I just, wherever I was looking I was able to hit the ball there. I've not been able to do that. I like to get a little feel back in my hands to where I could actually chip the ball again and actually have a little confidence in that.
So I've got a long way to go, but I still feel like somewhere in my gut I still feel like I can be competitive this week. I still feel like I can draw from the fans, draw from the energy like I did at the Ryder Cup.
I don't want to get caught reminiscing too much, I got to somehow stay in the moment, stay in the present, that's why I brought Ron my teacher here this week. He's kept me very focused and very motivated. We have got a plan and hopefully I can somehow stick to it and get out there and hit, if I hit quality golf shots, it would be fun.
I played beautifully in the pro-am, I didn't miss a shot, I hit every fairway and I think I only missed one green. And it's just, it was a very easy day. I need easy days again. I don't need to be struggling like I have been all year for a year and a half. That wears on you mentally and it makes you tired.
It just, when you're struggling and grinding just to make pars, that gets after you. I've got to figure out a way to make it where it's fun and easy again to where I can come to the media center.
And there for a couple years I was, when I was playing, I was finishing Top-10, Top-10, and if I wasn't, didn't have a chance to win, I was right there all the time. And maybe I didn't realize how when you look back over that zone or whatever I was in, how, you know, why was it then? What was I doing so well then that I'm not doing now. So there's a lot of little things.
I changed a set of irons this week. I went to a different set of irons I went from a perimeter weighted club to blade and I'm hitting them a lot softer, a lot better. So maybe that's going to help me this week. I don't know.
There's a lot of technology out there. I changed, I been trying with all the -- I got a new white driver, so there's a lot of variables I guess you can say that can kind of get you off track and you never -- I always say you're never too far away. I'll never forget at Boston I had played 13 weeks in a row, played pretty poorly. And I'll never forget walking off Wednesday night I slammed my clubs in the trunk of the car, I knew I was playing poorly, at the New England Classic, and I came out Thursday morning and I made one golf swing and immediately I knew that was it. And I won the golf tournament. Just playing pitiful for 6, 7 weeks come out there and I win a golf tournament.
And so it's kind of the way I am, I got figure out that one swing that's going to give me confidence that I can carry to the golf course and that I can repeat. And that I know, under the gun, I'm going to actually hit that golf shot and it's not going to be a foul ball right or left and get me in some deep trouble.
So it's been a long process. I hear Tiger always say process, that word drives me crazy and I hate saying it, but I feel it. I understand what he's saying. Because I'm trying to get back to where I was.
Maybe I can't get back there, I don't know. Maybe this 50 year old thing's maybe it, maybe it is. I don't know. I just need to, I just need to get in the mix a little bit and I think this is a good place to start.
KELLY ELBIN: Great stuff.

Q. When you were just speaking a second ago you said during bad times you were struggling and grinding to make pars. This is a difficult course even under ideal conditions, and if it rains very much, this is a lot of work for a lot of guys who don't face this kind of a challenge every week. Is that an advantage for you because you're long and because maybe you can make pars easier because you're hitting the ball farther?
KENNY PERRY: Well it's definitely going to help. If I'm golf course to be hitting 6-irons and they're going to have to be hitting 3-irons, that's a big difference. It's definitely an advantage to me. All the long, Keith Fergus, Purtzer, anybody that carries it 290 in the air is definitely going to have a big advantage this week. Because they're plugging today and we didn't have any rain. The ball's plugging.
So, but what's difficult around the greens is you got real tight lies and they're so soft that it's so easy to chili dip it. I mean it's embarrassing. It's just, the club's not bouncing, it's digging and you lay the sod over it and then next thing you know you're pulling the putter out and trying to hit it up a big slope or a bank or whatever.
Like I said, the green complexes are very severe here. There's a lot of steep slopes, there's a lot of quadrants you got to hit that ball and it's tough if you're hitting a hybrid or a 3-wood or something, a long 3-iron going in there.
You need height, you need trajectory, you need spin. All the guys that can do that are going to actually have a very good chance this week.

Q. If this is a Major Championship setup, which obviously it will be, and it's very, and par is a great score, how many people are, will be a factor in this, how many, how much of the field will be eliminated right away just simply because it will be so difficult?
KENNY PERRY: Well if it's going to play 73, 7400 yards long and then with the or 72 or whatever the PGA sets it up, and with the rain and you get your you're going to have to play full distances it will eliminate half the field. Immediately.
I could be wrong. I've only played, this is my fifth Champions Tour event. I haven't played enough with the guys. I don't really know the strength and weaknesses of the guys out here.
But I've always known through my PGA career power is a huge plus. You look at all the bombers on the PGA TOUR, Dustin Johnson, Ricky Fowler, all the guys that -- J.B. Holmes -- that kill it, you know, it's just a huge advantage now. And it's always, no matter, even here.
But you got to hit fairways, that's going to be a premium this week. Because you're not going to be able to do much out of the rough. But Jack always gives you pretty ample fairways, that's what I always liked about his golf course, I don't feel claustrophobic, I don't feel bound up when I'm on the tee box.
But there's a lot of crucial holes out here, like the tee shot on 12 and the little short hole, 13, you got to hit it in the fairway to that island green.
And then 15, 16, 17, very demanding holes off the tee. You got to hit the fairway. The back nine, it's like the tale of two nines, the front nine, back nine.
Front nine is more lengthy, seems more wide open, except for the 6th hole. The 6th hole's brutal. You're going to hit 3-wood, a lot of guys are going to hit driver, 3-wood into that hole no matter what. I hit 3-wood, 5-wood into it, but I did pull my 3-wood into the left rough and I still had -- if I want to be gutsy and hit it and challenge the water over there to the right, I'm still going to have to hit probably 4- or 5-iron into that green.
So that's going to be a very difficult hole. 6 and 12 are two of the toughest holes out here.
9, you got to split the fairway. You got to hit to that elevated area. You got to split the bunker. So it's going to be a very tough test. It's going to be a lot of 5-woods hit this week it seems like.

Q. In 7 will you go left or?
KENNY PERRY: Well I went left in the pro-am yesterday. I hit a great drive right down the middle and I still had 235 front, 255 hole. My ball just embedded. It didn't roll. I had downwind, and I tried to hit a 5-wood and I hit it nice and it just didn't carry, it went in the water. So then I went up to the drop area and I hit a 4-iron on the green.
But you know, it's, that's a confidence hole. Where I'm at in my round, do I need to get aggressive and try to make something happen or do I need to try to just continue the course, make pars, if you want to just make par, just hit it over the bunkers to the right and lay it up down there see if you can get up-and-down with your sand wedge.
But you can make eagle on that hole going left. It's a lot shorter going left. I think that -- I don't think we're going to get it this week, but if that hole was dried out like the Ryder Cup, it's fun. It's fun to go left and hit an iron on that green.

Q. Do you know how many folks family will be here and will your dad and your grand child both be here?
KENNY PERRY: They're scheduled to come, yes. My daughter and son-in-law will little Rowdy are planning on coming, my dad's planning on coming. He's 87, obviously if he's feeling well if he's coming.
So I'm probably going to get a hundred tickets and so far I've got everybody from Country Creek my old golf course in Franklin coming. So it's going to be a great week. It's going to have a nice week to have everybody out there just -- it's going to put a lot of pressure on me though. It's going to make me nervous. I don't want to get out there and play lousy in front of them.
But I didn't play lousy in front of them at the Ryder Cup, so that's where I've got more of a positive feel for this week. So hopefully I can somehow make that go, make that happen.

Q. This place isn't that old, it's only 25 years old. There's been a lot of history here. You've been part of it good and bad for you, I guess, but is there a different feeling when you pull through those gates, does it feel like a big event venue?
KENNY PERRY: Well I was laughing this morning. I drove in about 8:30 I looked on the range and there was only one person over there. So I thought, wow, you know, if it had been a PGA Major it would have been like the fans, the galleries would have been packed and the whole range would have been stuffed. Everybody fired up, ready to go to get it going.
You know what, it's just very relaxed. This tournament, you go around looking at, guys just play nine holes, they go in have a nice lunch and they're all in there telling stories.
Today I was laughing at Jim Woodward, I couldn't stop laughing. He was telling me stories when he got fined. Me and him played together at Pebble Beach one year and he lost it, he shot 83 and he chewed the marshall out, the cart driver, the car driver, and then he said he jumped out of the car, grabbed his clubs and was walking in from the ninth hole at Pebble Beach. You can't even walk in from the ninth hole at Pebble Beach, it's probably five miles. Because it's out in the middle of the golf course.
So that's kind of the way it is. You hear a lot of stories. I'm actually enjoying it. I don't feel -- no, it doesn't feel -- you know this is only my first, well, I guess they said Shoal Creek was a Major, I didn't realize that was a Major either, but this is actually my first, this has more of a Major feel, yes, than Shoal Creek did to me.
But compared to the PGA, this is really, this is fun. To me this is a lot of fun. If you play well, great. If you don't, it's no big deal either. Everybody's proved what they done on the PGA TOUR and you don't have to prove anything to anybody.
You just shake a lot of hands and you can tell -- I heard a lot of stories -- you just go out and have a good time. So I'm hoping that they're all going to be relaxed, have a good time and I can sneak out around them somehow and get in front of them, so.

Q. I'm going to change gears with you here. When you're not out here at Valhalla is there anywhere you like to go or things you like to do while you're here in the city?
KENNY PERRY: You mean in Louisville or at home?

Q. In Louisville.
KENNY PERRY: You know what, I've not done a lot in Louisville. I enjoyed playing at the Brown Hotel when we stayed down there at the Ryder Cup. I found out a little history, I found out my father-in-law's dad was a cook or a butler there. I saw his picture on the wall. Which blew me away. So that was kind of cool.
And then I was Grand Marshal of the Kentucky Derby one year. That was quite an experience for me. So other than that, no, I've not done a lot here in Louisville. Even though I, because I'm two hours south of here. I'm down in Franklin and it's just, you know, when I'm home, I go home, I don't like to travel, as much traveling as I'm doing.
So I got a good buddy, I got two that live in Lake Forest and one at Persimmon Ridge. So I'm staying with one in Lake Forest and when I come up here that's where I kind of hang out when I play Valhalla. We just go out and have a good time -- or Persimmon Ridge -- that's where I go. Great courses here.
But, no, I haven't yeah, I haven't been to any Louisville football or baseball games or anything like that, no. I'm just a homebody.
KELLY ELBIN: Kenny Perry, thank you very much, good luck.
KENNY PERRY: Thank y'all.

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