DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) — He is closing in on 50 and so desperate to make the Ryder Cup team that he was willing to skip a major championship to increase his chances. Besides, he didn’t think the course was a good fit for his game.
Kenny Perry isn’t the only player who felt that way.
Four years ago, Fred Funk caused a minor stink when he skipped the British Open to play the B.C. Open and boost his chances of making the Ryder Cup team. The circumstances were slightly different, for several players didn’t think it was right for Funk to pick up Ryder Cup points the same week as a major.
But it showed how much the Ryder Cup means to American players.
Funk had no regrets because he didn’t think links golf at Royal Troon offered him much hope to succeed. Besides, the Ryder Cup criteria has changed since then and now is based primarily on money. In 2004, third place at the B.C. Open was equivalent to seventh place at the British Open. This year, third place in Milwaukee would be comparable to about 25th place the British Open.
Perry has played only three times at Torrey Pines without ever reaching the weekend. He is only hurting himself by not playing the U.S. Open, but feels as though he would be worse off going through a 36-hole qualifier (that’s 108 holes in five days) for a course where he doesn’t have good vibes. Instead, he will play Memphis, Hartford and Detroit, where he has more success.
How could anyone miss a major?
Jack Nicklaus said it’s one thing if Perry were in his 20s and a rising star, quite another for him to be 47 and trying to make a Ryder Cup team played in his home state of Kentucky.
Annika Sorenstam, for example, skipped an LPGA Tour major when she was 28, having played overseas and in need of a rest.
“My goal was never to make the Ryder Cup. It was to win the U.S. Open,” Nicklaus said. “But I understand. It’s a big thing to Kenny. I don’t think Kenny is trying to be No. 1 in the world. He’s trying to make a Ryder Cup team in his home state. That’s perfectly fine.”
It’s doubtful that U.S. captain Paul Azinger minds. The money counts double at majors, but Azinger is aware that nearly half of the Americans who finished in the top 10 at majors last year failed to win a tournament.
Remember, he wants winners.
IT’S THE ECONOMY: Memorial host Jack Nicklaus wanted the prize money to be $7 million this year, making it the highest purse among regular PGA Tour events and equal to the playoff events.
Instead, he kept it at $6 million because he thought it would send a bad signal at a time when fans from around central Ohio are struggling with jobs, gas is approaching $4 a gallon and the economy is tight.
“There are certain times you do certain things,” Nicklaus said. “I just don’t think that sends a good message.”
FAMILY VACATION: Carl Pettersson is not bashful about putting family before majors.
He missed the PGA Championship last year after his wife had their second child, although his logic didn’t make sense to some people. Pettersson played the Bridgestone Invitational (which has no cut) a week after his son was born, then skipped Southern Hills the following week. He was trying to collect FedEx Cup points.
Pettersson had been eligible for the British Open the last two years, and forgot he had to qualify. The U.S. qualifier is in July, the same week Pettersson had scheduled a beach vacation for his family.
“It’s right in the middle of the vacation,” he said. “If I go up there (unprepared), why even bother? And if I left to try to qualify, my wife would go nuts. I don’t mind. We had a great time last year at the beach, and it’s good for us to go back.”
All is not lost.
Pettersson has two ways to get in. He can be the leading player among the top five at the John Deere Classic, or be among the top two PGA Tour members on a special money list that includes The Players Championship and five tournaments between this week through the AT&T National at Congressional.
That includes the U.S. Open, and Pettersson won his qualifier Monday.
COLLEGE CHANGE: Jack Nicklaus wishes there were more match play in college golf to get players more prepared – not for the Ryder Cup, but when tournaments come down to two players over the final few holes.
As he shared his sentiments, he learned help was on the way.
Gregg Grost, head of the Golf Coaches Association of America, said the NCAA Championship will revamp its formula next year. Grost said 30 teams will qualify and play 54 holes, with an NCAA individual champion and the top eight teams advancing.
Then comes a bracket of eight teams that are seeded based on their scores. The format would be medal-match play with players per team. Medal matches mean whichever has the lowest medal score wins the match.
There would be three rounds to determine the winner.
Grost said the format would be announced later this month, but he already got a thumbs-up from Nicklaus.
“I’m delighted,” Nicklaus said. “Then you’re giving them the opportunity to learn how to play competitive golf.”
SUZANN AND THE KING: Suzann Pettersen is a member at Bay Hill, and the biggest perk is running into Arnold Palmer.
“I’ve been around good players out here, like Juli Inkster, Meg Mallon, Beth Daniel. But to be able to get to know and dig into Mr. Palmer’s head, that’s fun,” she said. “He’s like a grandpa out there. He’s so nice, always friendly, always smiles, always signs autographs.”
She noticed something else about Palmer, who turns 79 in September.
“He’s always on the range,” she said. “He’s there every morning. Any time he’s unhappy with his game, he’ll go get a few drivers from his garage and go hit some. And he’s like, all of a sudden, ‘I’ve got it!’ He’s like 79 years old. We’re like, ‘OK, that’s great.’
“What a character.”
DIVOTS: Colin Montgomerie fell out of the top 100 this week, leaving Alastair Forsyth at No. 95 as the highest-ranked player from Scotland … Lorena Ochoa says she struggled to learn English when she arrived from Mexico to attend the University of Arizona. She wanted to major in psychology. “I went into a few classes and I couldn’t understand a word,” she said. “So I have to change to P.E.” Ochoa, who spoke for a half-hour with ease, said she still laments her lack of vocabulary and grammar. … Paula Creamer had her left ankle taped at the LPGA Championship. She attributed it to tendinitis.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Of the 160 amateurs who made it through local qualifying, only five of them earned a spot in the U.S. Open.
FINAL WORD: “I thought I’d win more tournaments by now, but I’m not going to stop trying.” – Lee Janzen, whose eighth and most recent victory was 10 years ago at the U.S. Open.