Perry comes through, gets redemption at Valhalla

September 24, 2008

LOUISVILLE, Ky.(AP) So much for rookie jitters.

The six first-time members of the U.S. Ryder Cup team went 9-4-8 on one of golf’s biggest stages, and the European rookies went 6-5-2.

Anthony Kim, Boo Weekley and J.B. Holmes all won their singles matches on Sunday, marking the first time since 1989 that three U.S. rookies won in singles.

“It was phenomenal,” Phil Mickelson said. “They brought a game, an attitude and it invigorated the U.S. team.”

After losing three straight Cups, the addition of young players like Kim and Holmes meant the new players didn’t have to worry about past Cup failures. The way they looked at it, they had nothing to lose.

“We just wanted to stick with each other and keep that attitude going,” Kim said.

The Europeans were almost as solid, particularly Graeme McDowell and Justin Rose. McDowell went 2-1-1 and Rose went 3-1-0, including a singles victory over Mickelson.

KENNY’S DONE: Kenny Perry’s career-defining performance will also be his final one in Ryder Cup play.

With the Franklin, Ky., player working in front of a gallery packed with friends and family – including his 84-year-old father, Ken Sr., in overalls – Perry beat Henrik Stenson 3 and 2 in singles, giving him a 2-1-1 record in what he called one of the most memorable weeks of his life.

It was redemption of sorts for Perry, who blew a two-shot lead on the 18th during the final round of the 1996 PGA Championship at Valhalla and said for years the course owed him one. He rededicated himself this year to make the team, winning three times to earn a spot at age 48.

“I said this was going to define my career, but you know what, it made my career,” Perry said.

Perry made sure the 18th wouldn’t come into play this time. He birdied four straight holes to take a 3-up lead after five holes and never let Stenson get closer than two the rest of the way.

The performance will be Perry’s final one at the Ryder Cup. Don’t look for him in Wales in 2010.

“I want to go out on top,” he said.


BOO BEING BOO: Boo Weekley is from western Florida, about 600 miles south of Valhalla, but you couldn’t tell it from the way the Kentucky crowd adopted him this week.

From the chants of “Booo” every time he made a putt to the T-shirts proclaiming Kentucky as the home of the “Red, White & Boo,” the 35-year-old Weekley became a cult hero over the weekend.

“I feel like I’ve been adopted,” Weekley said.

Maybe that explains Weekley’s relaxed demeanor on the tee. Playing in arguably the biggest match of his life, Weekley drilled his tee shot then placed his driver between his legs and began riding it down the fairway.


GOING THE DISTANCE: Nine matches made it to the 18th hole over the first two days of the Ryder Cup, but those who staked out seats in the bleachers didn’t get much action Sunday.

Only one match reached the final hole – a halve between Hunter Mahan and Paul Casey.

The 10 matches going the distance this week were the fewest in a Ryder Cup since nine matches in 1995 at Oak Hill.

Under the current format that began in 1979, this was the first time that only one match reached the 18th hole on Sunday.


SING A SIMPLE SONG: U.S. captain Paul Azinger said the galleries at the Ryder Cup could not have been better.

But that didn’t diminish his admiration for galleries he played in front of on the other side of the Atlantic.

“Their gallery is smooth. Our gallery has, like, got an edge,” he said Sunday. “They sing those sweet, smooth songs that stick in my head.

“I was whistling, “Ole, ole” on my way home last night and my wife caught me. She goes, ‘What are you whistling?’ I’m like, ‘Ohmigod, that song is stuck in my head.’ But I heard those were the only words they could remember after eight beers.

“I thought that,” Azinger said smiling, “was pretty funny.”


BAD BEHAVIOR: As if Lee Westwood wasn’t having a hard enough time in front of a highly partisan gallery, the longtime European star got a prank call at his hotel room late Saturday night.

He wasn’t the only one. Garcia received a similar call, though he slept through it. It didn’t stop with the players. Westwood said someone called his parents at 4:30 a.m.

“I found that quite amusing,” Westwood said. “It upset my dad’s preparation for walking around the course today.”


SEEING RED: Tiger Woods would have approved the U.S. team’s outfits Sunday.

After wearing blue on Saturday, the team switched to red for the singles matches, and they weren’t the only ones.

Thousands of fans, at U.S. captain Paul Azinger’s request, followed suit. Azinger, however, didn’t approve of all the red outfits.

A pair of European fans toted around red penguin figures and Azinger couldn’t help but notice, telling people to forget about the red penguins and focus on the guys in the red shirts.


PASSING THE BATON: Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear met with First Minister of Wales Rhodri Morgan on Sunday to pass the baton from Valhalla to Wales, which will host the 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor.

Morgan and Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones participated in the closing ceremonies, which included flying the Wales flag as part of the official exchange of responsibility for hosting the Ryder Cup.

The Cup will return to the United States at Medinah outside Chicago in 2012. Future sites include Gleneagles in Scotland in 2014, Hazeltine in Minnesota in 2016 and Whistling Straits in Wisconsin in 2020.