EDMOND, Okla. – Kenny Perry displayed the kind of golf on Sunday at Oak Tree National that reminded everyone how he won this championship a year ago in Omaha, Neb.
The Kentucky native spun his wheels for most of the week, but turned in a fine 4-under 67 in the final round – despite bogeys on the final two holes. The rally enabled Perry to finish in a tie for 14th place at 4-over 288.
That 67 was the second-lowest round of the day, after the bogey-free, 5-under 66 that Bart Bryant shot earlier. Bryant is the younger brother of 2007 U.S. Open champion Brad Bryant, and they were competing against each other in the U.S. Senior Open for the first time.
Perry said he actually could have shot much lower.
"I played amazing, I really did. It was a good round, but it could have been a special round," said Perry, 53, who failed to convert a number of short putts coming in that left him less than satisfied. "I missed short ones [for birdies] on 10, 11 and 12 and then I missed a 1-foot putt on 17. I swear to God it couldn't have been more than that. How do you miss a 1-foot putt? That's golf, right?"
Perry also missed an 8-foot eagle putt on the seventh. Still, he offset some of that frustration with 20-foot birdies at Nos. 1 and 9. He also got putts to drop at Nos. 14 and 16 before the three-putt at the 17th. "After that, my mind kind of checked out," he said.
A six-time winner on the Champions Tour, including three majors, Perry was disappointed in his week because he enjoyed the setup and the golf course.
"It's hard out there. I am very proud of what I shot, even with that hiccup at the end there, he said. "But I feel like I should have done better. I didn't start figuring this place out until the weekend. [He shot 72 on Saturday.] I didn't prepare well and I didn't think my way around very well, and you have to do that here. It's a great golf course."
Even Par Finally Pays Dividends for Austin
Shooting around even par hasn't been lucrative for Woody Austin this year. Then he showed up at the U.S. Senior Open for his Champions Tour debut and got rewarded for his efforts.
With a closing 1-under 70, Austin finished in a tie for third place with David Frost at 1-under 283 and was one of just four men to complete 72 holes at Oak Tree National in red figures. A four-time winner on the PGA Tour, Austin had two birdies against one bogey on Sunday, and he finished his championship off with an unorthodox par when he stubbed his chip shot at 18 after missing the green and then knocked in the next shot.
"I think it was justice. I bogeyed the last hole each day," Austin, who lives in Derby, Kan., said with a grin.
Winner of last year's Sanderson Farms Championship, Austin has not had much success on the PGA Tour this season, making just seven cuts in 20 starts. His best finish is a tie for 13th at the limited-field Hyundai Tournament of Champions. In three events in which he either shot even or 1 under, he didn't complete 72 holes.
Austin tried to remind himself that par is a good score at a U.S. Open.
"You know, even par is what I have been doing all year," he said. "It's still – it's still even par. I know it was good this week, but I've got to think of it from the standpoint of where I have been this year and how I have been playing, and it's pretty much just the way I have been playing all year."
That said, Austin had trouble being too displeased. He found a bright side to the week.
"Well, obviously I didn't pick the easiest one or the simplest one," he said. "This gives me an idea of what to look forward to. Obviously again though, this is the harder one of them all. But it was nice to play on a weekend. I haven't played on a weekend in so long, so that was nice. I'd say it's pretty much what I expected. I was just hoping I'd be in better form and be playing better, but I have played really bad this year. I needed this. This was at least a boost of confidence considering how bad I've been playing with the young guys."
Durant Finishes Strong By Doing What He Does Best
With much of the field moving in the other direction on Sunday, a four-under 67 moved Joe Durant from a tie for 29th to start the day into a tie for ninth place. Durant was bogey-free on Sunday, with 15 pars, two birdies and an eagle.
I drove it beautifully today. That sets everything up here, said Durant. If you don't hit it in the fairway it's a constant battle. I drove it good, hit a lot of good solid iron shots and seemed to have good numbers today, too. I didn't have to try to manufacture shots.
Durant’s recipe for success at Oak Tree National was similar to the one he has used throughout a career that includes four PGA Tour victories. The U.S. Senior Open rookie topped the field with 55 of 72 greens in regulation, hardly a novel result for the Pensacola, Fla., native, who led the Tour in that category three times.
Likely skewed by the fact that he hit so many greens, Durant tied for 63rd in putting for the week. Had he wielded a hot putter, Sunday’s 67 could have been even lower.
Two, three more [birdies], probably, being realistic about it, said Durant of how many he could have made, given the chances he had. I had a lot of good looks.
Top 15, Others Can Make Their Plans For Del Paso
A handful of players earned spots in the 2015 U.S. Senior Open, to be conducted at Del Paso Country Club in Sacramento, Calif., next June 25-28, based on their performance this week at Oak Tree National.
The top-15 finishers and ties earn spots in the following year’s championship, with 19 players fitting the bill. Of that group, six players – Gene Sauers, Marco Dawson, Scott Dunlap, Mark Brooks, Lance Ten Broeck and Tom Byrum – made it into the field via sectional qualifying.
In addition, the low amateur from the previous year is traditionally exempt, meaning that Mike McCoy can book his plans for 2015. McCoy edged Jeff Wilson, the only other amateur to make the cut, by three strokes.
For his efforts, 2014 U.S. Senior Open champion Colin Montgomerie, 51, will be exempt into the championship until his 66th birthday.
Senior Open Brings Eagles For Education Total to $500,000
There were a total of 14 eagles recorded at Oak Tree National during the U.S. Senior Open, resulting in a $135,000 donation on behalf of the USGA and Chevron’s Eagles For Education program. $5,000 was donated for each of the eight eagles during the first two rounds and $10,000 for each eagle during Round 3 on Saturday.
Four eagles were recorded during Sunday’s final round, resulting in a donation of $15,000 for each of the first three and $30,000 for Michael Allen’s hole-out for eagle on the par-4 15th hole.
Eagles For Education funds have previously aided Oklahoma-based programs such as the Edmond Public School Foundation and Stanley Hupfeld Academy at Western Village, in support of their STEM-related golf programs. The program also benefits like-minded organizations throughout the country, such as The First Tee, First Green and LPGA-USGA Girls’ Golf.
To learn more about the Eagles For Education program, visit www.usga.org/chevron.
Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to USGA websites. Scott Lipsky of the USGA contributed.