Major test still looms for Perry

BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Kenny Perry already has tied a career high with three wins and reached his goal of making the Ryder Cup team that will face Europe in his home state.

All this, and Perry still hasn't played in a major this year.

That changes this week at the PGA Championship at Oakland Hills, where one of the hottest golfers on the planet is among the favorites.

But it hasn't changed the conversation because he was still answering questions Tuesday about not playing in the British Open or trying to qualify for the U.S. Open.

”They blasted me for it. I was laughing,“ he said. ”To tell you the truth it was, I just couldn't believe it. If I haven't been playing very well, this scenario wouldn't have never happened.

”So to me it was a compliment, and I enjoyed it.“

Perry would relish it even more if he won a major for the first time on Sunday — his 48th birthday.

”It would be the ultimate,“ he acknowledged. ”I've been able to win 12 times out here, but I've never been able to get it done in a major. I never even really played well until '96 when I lost in the playoff to Mark Brooks at the PGA at Valhalla, back home in Kentucky. So I haven't had much success other than that week in all the majors.

”Putting's always held me back. For the past three months, I putted better than I ever putted in my life, period. If I putt somewhere near like I putted this summer, I've got a great shot this week.“

Perry had a lackluster showing last week after an eight-event stretch in which he won three times, lost in a playoff and twice tied for sixth.

”I'm hoping I didn't peak too early,“ he said. ”Set my goals to make that Ryder Cup team and blew right through that this summer. Now, I'm trying to get refocused here and get re-energized for September. This will be a great place to do it.“

Perry has made nearly $4.5 million — trailing only Tiger Woods, whose season ended with knee surgery — on the money list and is averaging a PGA Tour-low 69.51 strokes in 21 events.

”It's been a dream season for me,“ he said.

He was winless the previous two seasons, slowed by knee surgery, after winning twice in 2005 and three times in 2003.

The 6-foot-2 Perry, listed as weighing 205 pounds, credits genetics for his revival because he hasn't worked out a day in his life.

”Why it happened this year? It's just been magical,“ he said in his typical aw-shucks fashion. ”It just taught me I need to set more goals in my life. My only goal was to make the Ryder Cup team. That's all I focused in on this year.“

Perry packed his schedule with tournaments, hoping he would earn enough points to make the U.S. Ryder Cup team that will try to knock off Europe.

After winning the Memorial two months ago, he skipped the U.S. Open's 36-hole qualifier and stuck with his plan to play in Memphis and Hartford. When he won the Buick Open later that month, he chose not to play in the British Open and keep his commitment to compete in Milwaukee.

Phil Mickelson wouldn't have done it the same way, but said he understood and supported Perry's right to play where and when he wanted.

”I believe as an individual, you need to decide what allows you to play your best golf,“ Mickelson said. ”And you need to go that direction regardless of the scrutiny.“

Woody Austin thought Perry would've picked a different path after locking up a spot on the Ryder Cup team, but also didn't begrudge the decision.

”From that standpoint on, I would have to say he could have tweaked it a little bit,“ Austin said. ”But I do understand why he did it. Let's face it, he is a Kentuckian. He wants to be in his (home state). And from a potential teammate standpoint, I want him there, because you want as many Kentucky people there rooting for him as possible. So, good for him.“