Kenny Perry is getting the hang of these majors. He only wishes it had happened sooner.
Perry completed a masterful performance with a 7-under 63 on Sunday that gave him a five-shot win over Fred Funk in the U.S. Senior Open.
The 52-year-old Kentuckian won his second straight senior major with a flurry. His 64-63 finish and the 10-shot deficit he overcame after 36 holes set tournament records. His 13-under total of 267 matched the lowest four-round score.
"It all came together. Why, after all these years?" Perry said. "Here I am, (almost) 53 years old, and it finally came together for me."
On the regular tour, Perry won 14 times but was best known for collapses in the 2009 Masters and 1996 PGA Championship. Those memories haunted him again in May when he squandered a three-shot lead with six holes to play in the Senior PGA Championship and lost by two to Kohki Idoki.
Just as he did two weeks ago in the Senior Players Championship at Fox Chapel, Pa., where he won by two shots over Fred Couples and Duffy Waldorf, Perry came from well behind to win in the hills and heat at the par-70 Omaha Country Club.
"This is by far the biggest tournament I ever won," Perry said. "I lost the playoff at the Master’s and the PGA playoff. I didn’t get the job done. Now to have a USGA title, it’s an Open, it’s our Open, it’s what the players play for.
"To finally get it, even though it’s a Senior Open, I still regard it as a very high honor."
Perry, who started Sunday two shots behind leader Michael Allen, was in front to stay after he birdied the second and third holes and Allen bogeyed the third.
Perry’s 63 matched Allen’s Friday score for best round of the tournament and was the best ever in a U.S. Senior Open final round.
"He put it to us," Funk said. "Six under yesterday, seven today, back-to-back. It’s kind of what he did two weeks ago at Fox Chapel. He just smoked the field on the weekend. He just lapped us."
Perry made par over the last three holes. A wide smile crossed his face as he tapped in for par on 18. He dropped his putter, raised both arms and waved his visor to the gallery.
Perry is the ninth player to win consecutive senior majors. He said he wouldn’t go for three in a row. He’s staying home to rest rather than play the British Senior Open in two weeks.
Perry had six birdies and one bogey on his way to a 5-under 30 on the front nine Sunday. He started a run of four straight birdies when he blasted out of the sand to within 5 feet on No. 6.
By the time he made the turn, he was three shots ahead of the fading Allen.
Things momentarily got interesting when Rocco Mediate made a 10-foot putt on No. 15 for his third straight birdie to get within two shots. Over on the par-5 14th, Perry was buried in the left rough. He chipped into the fairway and was left with 130 yards to the pin.
He knocked his wedge within a foot, yelling "Be right" as his ball plopped onto the green and rolled toward the cup. After the tap-in, another birdie on No. 15 and Mediate’s bogey on 16, Perry’s lead was up to five and he was well on his way to his fourth win since he joined the Champions Tour in 2010.
Perry said Mediate’s late run helped him keep his focus.
"I was like, `Oh, oh, we’ve got to keep going. We’ve got to put the hammer down and work on out,’ " Perry said. "Sometimes when you get leads, you kind of hang onto that lead. I didn’t want that cushion. I wanted to push it on out there. I wanted a five-shot lead coming down to the last hole."
Funk, the 2009 champion, was runner-up for the second straight year and third time since 2008. He was tied with Perry after the third round but couldn’t make much headway, shooting a final-round 68.
Mediate (66) and Corey Pavin (67) tied for third at 7-under 273.
The 54-year-old Allen needed acupuncture treatments for a pinched nerve in his neck to be able to play the last three rounds. His five-shot lead through 36 holes was the largest in tournament history. He followed his course-record 63 on Friday with a pair of 72s that left him in fifth place.
"Today’s round was probably the greatest round I’ve ever played," Perry said. "I just was spot on with all my irons. I putted like Ben Crenshaw. It’s just been a remarkable month. I’ve had a great run."