- The Washington Times - Monday, June 2, 2003

DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) — Exhausted from the best two weeks of his career, Kenny Perry settled into a chair next to tournament host Jack Nicklaus, winner of 18 majors and 73 victories on the PGA Tour.

“I don’t know how you did it,” Perry told him.

Perry certainly can’t explain his own exploits, the latest coming yesterday at the Memorial when he ran away from the field and almost ran out of gas, closing with an even-par 72 for a two-stroke victory over Lee Janzen.

It was the first time in his career that the 42-year-old Perry has won more than once in a season — back-to-back, no less, at two of the most prestigious stops on the PGA Tour.

He dismantled the field at Hogan’s Alley.

He buried an even stronger collection of players on the course Nicklaus built.

“This is the time of my life,” Perry said. “I’ve never played golf like this.”

One week after a record-setting victory at Colonial, Perry played perfect golf for nine holes to build a five-stroke lead at Muirfield Village, and three straight bogeys at the end only made it look close.

The runner-up was Janzen, a two-time U.S. Open champion. Masters champion Mike Weir shot 65 and finished third. Another shot behind was the best player in the world, Tiger Woods, and Vijay Singh, winner of two majors.

“We had a strong field,” Perry said. “That excites me to beat the best.”

Perry joined Nicklaus, Woods, Greg Norman and Hale Irwin as the only multiple winners at the Memorial. He also won in 1991.

Woods, a three-time winner at Muirfield Village, had four birdies and an eagle on the back nine and closed with a 7-under 65. He tied for fourth in his final tournament before the U.S. Open.

No one was going to catch Perry.

He pulled away with four birdies on the front nine and stretched his lead to as many as six shots. Janzen never got close until the end.

After making only two bogeys over the first 66 holes, Perry finished with five bogeys and a birdie. He was just trying to get to the clubhouse and collect another trophy.

“About 13, it hit me,” Perry said. “I just got flat, started stroking it terrible. Thank goodness I had a lead, and Lee wasn’t making anything.”

Perry finished at 13-under 275 and earned $900,000 for the second straight week. He moved up to No. 5 on the PGA Tour money list with more than $2.5 million, a career-best. He could move into the top 10 when the world rankings are released today.

“I knew I didn’t have the talent as some of these other guys, but I always felt like I had the heart, the soul and the guts to play,” Perry said.

Janzen, winless since his second U.S. Open title at the Olympic Club in 1998, holed out from a bunker for the third time in two days, but he missed several birdie opportunities on the back nine and closed with a 72.

Perry became the sixth player this year with multiple victories and the oldest player since Irwin (45) in 1990 to win back-to-back on the PGA Tour.

“He’s playing fantastic,” said Weir, who finished third at 10-under 278. “When he gets hot, he can really go after it and go low. He’s just in a nice groove right now.”

Janzen knows that as well as anyone. He played in the final group with Perry and watched a clinic. He fell six strokes behind after 10 holes and knows the final margin was closer than it really was.

“It’s easy to look back and say I had my chances because of the way he finished, but if I wouldn’t have made a couple of those putts … he may have stepped up and made the putts he had,” Janzen said.

Perry seemingly had his work cut out for him. His lead was only two shots — not quite the eight-stroke advantage he had last week at Colonial — and strong breezes under cool, sunny skies made Muirfield Village a good test.

Big deal.

As those around him sputtered through the first nine, Perry quickly turned the Memorial into another rout.

He holed a 20-foot birdie from the fringe on No. 2, birdied both the par 5s, then hit an approach on No. 9 that stopped 18 inches short of going in. Perry went out in 32, matching Weir for the best front nine of the final round.

“That front nine was probably the best nine holes I’ve played,” Perry said.

More importantly, it gave him a big cushion over Janzen.

Perry was ahead by seven last week going into the back nine at Colonial, where the only drama was whether Justin Leonard could shoot 59. There was nothing like that at Muirfield Village, not that Woods didn’t try.

Starting with the par-3 eighth, Woods quickly shot up the leader board in his final tournament before defending at the U.S. Open.

He nearly holed a wedge from the 14th fairway. He made eagle putts on both par 5s, making the one on No. 15 from two feet after his 4-iron came inches from going in. Woods wound up at 9-under 279.

“Unfortunately, I had nine holes that put me out of the tournament,” Woods said of his 42 on the front nine Saturday.

Note — Nicklaus, captain of the U.S. team for this year’s Presidents Cup, held a meeting this week and said there wasn’t a player among the top 10 in the standings — including Woods, Phil Mickelson and Davis Love III — who doesn’t want to go. Some top players had said they might skip the Presidents Cup, not wanting to travel to South Africa after the PGA Tour season is over. The matches are scheduled for Nov. 20-23.

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