ANOTHER WIN AT ARNOLD PALMER INVITATIONAL PRESENTED BY MASTERCARD WOULD BE JUST AS SPECIAL FOR 2005 WINNER
At the outset of the 2009 season, veteran PGA Tour player Kenny Perry decided to share with the media his goal to win 20 titles by the time he closes the book on his career. But even before he won the FBR Open earlier this year in a playoff for his 13th Tour title, Perry was looking ahead to one of his favorite events, the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard, as a potential spot for adding to his total.
“There are places I love that I can play, and there are places I love where I can’t seem to get anything going ever,” said Perry, who is ranked No. 9 in the world. “Bay Hill is one of those golf courses where I just feel real comfortable. Guys always talk about a golf course suiting their eye. I can’t really say that about Bay Hill, but I like the course, and I love going there to see Arnie. I haven’t always played well there, and maybe it’s just that I enjoy being there that I feel like I have a good chance to win when I go there.”
Perry, 48, of Franklin, Kentucky, is expected to be among a number of former champions returning to the 31st Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard. The prestigious invitational event, which is hosted by Palmer and contested on a gem of a layout that Palmer designed, is scheduled for March 23-29, the final event on the Tour’s Florida Swing.
Winner of the 2005 edition, Perry has a commendable record at Bay Hill, including a tie for second in 2003. His victory two years later represented the eighth of his professional career, which started in 1982. Perry remembers the nervousness he felt coming down the stretch. “It was a big deal because I really wanted to win that tournament. I have always looked up to Arnold; when I was growing up, he was the man. It just seemed like I always got in my own way, but I didn’t that time.”
Perry fired a closing 70 on the Championship Course for a two-stroke victory over Vijay Singh and Graeme McDowell in what was essentially a threeman race. Perry finished at 12-under 276, while Singh and McDowell closed at 10 under par. Retief Goosen was fourth another five shots back at five-under 283.
“Bay Hill is a tactician kind of golf course,” Perry said. “You really have to navigate around all the problems, and you have to hit it good and be smart at the same time. I’ve always been a good ball-striker. My whole career I’ve been pretty solid from tee to green. Normally the rough is very tough at Bay Hill, and the greens are firm. The year I won, I hit more fairways than anybody else. I drove it great, and that’s what you have to do because that sets up everything else.
“That was a special week,” Perry added. “I played so well, and when you get in that position in an event that means something to you … you try not to think about it. You start to think about what it means to win Arnold Palmer’s tournament and you could mess up real quickly. And then to have him standing out there with that big sword … getting the trophy from him, that was magical stuff.”
Perry, who did not get to defend his title in 2006 because of knee surgery, admits that trying to win 20 times isn’t necessarily a realistic goal, but it gives him something to strive for. He thinks he does have one attribute in common with the tournament host: a natural strength that keeps him competitive against waves of younger players.
“Arnold was such a strong guy in his prime, and that made him exciting,” Perry said. “I’m not saying I’m like Arnold, but I’m lucky that I’m still healthy and I can still do what I want with my golf swing. I am a pretty big guy. I might have lost a little clubhead speed, but the game has not passed me by yet. New equipment, new ball … I can still hit it as far as anybody, and I still feel like I can compete with anybody.”
For tickets or more information on the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard, log on to the tournament web site, www.arnoldpalmerinvitational.com or call the Bay Hill ticket office at 407-876- 7774 or toll free at 1-866-764-4843. Tournament proceeds benefit the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies.