PEABODY, Mass. – There are different degrees of hot. There is boiling water, steaming pipes, searing flames.
And then there is Kenny Perry.
“That's been the story of my career,” Perry said. “When I get hot, I'll win two or three tournaments in a row. I did that on the regular tour twice. …
“That's happened out here. When I got hot, when I won the (Senior Open) in ’13 in Omaha, I did the same kind of thing. I was rolling them in from everywhere.”
Kenny Perry rolls to his fourth major title as a senior.
That said, Perry wasn’t sure whether he could ever get hot again in a tournament. When 2017 began, the lover of fast cars and drag racing owned 14 PGA Tour victories and eight more wins on the PGA Tour Champions circuit, including three senior majors.
But like everyone else who moves into golf’s Second City, he also has age working against him. Perry hadn’t won since Aug. 2, 2015, at the 3M Championship. His next birthday, on Aug. 10, will be his 57th. He was beginning to believe the flame was going out.
“I wondered if I would ever win again, if maybe things had passed me by,” he said.
But he made some changes. He parted ways with long-time caddie Fred Sanders. He went on a diet and lost a significant amount of weight. And last week, when he came to Salem Country Club, he put a new putter in the bag.
“It's all about my putting,” Perry said. “I'm a streaky putter, and when my putter gets hot, I usually win golf tournaments, and that's exactly what happened this week.”
Playing Donald Ross-designed greens softened by rain and challenging fairways wide enough on which to land a space station, Perry combusted. He leaned on the most reliable weapon in his bag – his naturally aspirated drive – and he captured some magic with his new wand, an Argolf putter.
Perry matched the 36-hole record score of Kirk Triplett, then put him in the rearview mirror with a closing 2-under 68, his fourth round in the 60s. Perry stunned Triplett with a 25-foot bomb at No. 15 and finished him with a record score of 264 for his second U.S. Senior Open title.
Perry still can put his foot on the gas … and he never took it off.
“You know, for the last two years, I have struggled,” said Perry, who became the sixth player to win the Senior Open multiple times. “I haven't done very well. Played very poorly, average golf. I didn't know where I was going, what I was doing.
“And then I changed caddies. Ryan Cochran, Russ Cochran's son, caddied for me last week and this week. I just started using him, and I changed to a different putter. Next thing you know, I'm making putts, and it's like I'm a kid again out there.”
Now he can approach that 57th birthday with a new frame of mind. Perry picked up a check for $720,000 before he departed Essex County and has a tee time waiting in next year’s U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills.
He has a simple life back in Franklin, Ky. He still has his Country Creek Golf Course to oversee. He has his wife, Sandy, by his side, three children to be proud of and a grandchild to smother.
What’s more, he has the satisfaction of knowing, when it means the most, that Kenny Perry still can get hot – as hot as anyone.
Dan O’Neill, who covered golf for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch from 1989 to 2017, is an editorial consultant on golf for Fox Sports. His articles have appeared in publications such as Golfweek, Golf World, Golf.com and The Memorial magazine. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @WWDOD