As is custom during any major tournament where I am stuck at work, the first thing I do when I get back to the office is check the leaderboard and see how everyone is doing.
Today, I get back to the office and head over to Yahoo.com and start looking through the names:
Vijay Singh?? Check. +10. Yikes
Ernie Els?? Same. Ouch
AK23?? +1 and right in it. Nice.
Lee Westwood?? +5. Darn it.
Greg Norman?? Even. WOW.
Anyway, I'm going through the names and out of the corner of my eye I see the leaderboard for the US Bank Championships in Milwaukee. As you golf fans out there know, the PGA Tour has a PGA event scheduled for this week for guys who don't enter in the British Open or don't qualify. I normally would pay no attention to this list of no-names, but one name caught my eye today.
Kenny Perry at -3 through 15 holes.
We knew all along that he was ducking the British Open this week, but it's still pretty sad to see his name on that US Bank Championships leaderboard.
This is the same Kenny Perry with 3 PGA tour wins this year. He's currently ranked 2nd in the Fed Ex Cup standings. He's now up to 4th in Ryder Cup points, and he's vaulted all the way up to #16 in the World Golf Rankings. He's having a career year, and probably playing as well as anyone in the world not named Tiger Woods.
He's clearly invited to play in the British Open, and he likely would have a great chance to do well and possibly win a major based on how well he is playing this year.
And yet there he is in the US Bank Championships in Milwaukee instead of playing in one of the 4 major tournaments. The Open Championship is the one event of the year that draws worldwide attention to the great game of golf, and Perry is playing in a tournament that will be lucky to be televised on the Golf Channel.
For those of you who don't know the back story to Perry's decision, he really really wants to play in the Ryder Cup this year. He grew up in Elizabethtown, Kentucky and still lives in Kentucky. The Ryder Cup is being played at Valhalla in Louisville this year, and Perry wants to be in it. He has been playing in as many tournaments as possible this year to rack up points for the Ryder Cup, and he made the decision to skip the US Open and British Open to play in the St. Jude Classic in Memphis and the US Bank Championships.
Here's Kenny's quote on the Ryder Cup:
"I'm gonna stay focused, try to earn as many points as I can earn," he said. "I'm still not on that Ryder Cup team until I put the red, white and blue on."
Ok, fair enough, and I get that Perry really wants to be on the Ryder Cup team. So instead of taking on the challenge of the British Open (and risking the possibility that he stinks up it and misses the cut), Perry is probably going to get a top 5 finish in Milwaukee and rack up more Ryder Cup points. He's like one of those mid-major basketball programs that has figured out how to game the RPI system with cheap
road wins and other tactics to get better at-large NCAA tournament consideration. Perry is the Northern Iowa of professional golf.
If you ask me, it's a cop out and Paul Azinger should call him out for it. If Perry can't handle playing in a major, then how is he going to perform under all the pressure of Ryder Cup play?? Perry has a history of gagging in big moments (the 96 PGA comes to mind), and the pressure on the US team to bring back the Ryder Cup will be as intense as ever. Is Azinger going to want a guy on his team who willingly ducks the big events against the best players in the world??
It might be time for Tim Finchem to get involved and create a new system for Ryder Cup points. If you qualify to play in a major but skip it, you don't get any points for the simultaneous tournament being played. Something like that would go a long way toward keeping the Kenny Perrys of the world in line.
Finally, I chose the picture for this post for a reason. What would Jack Nicklaus think of Kenny Perry's decision?? By all accounts, the British Open is one of Jack's favorite tournaments, and he is beloved around the world. Jack has NEVER shied away from competition. Even if Jack was in jeopardy of missing the Ryder Cup, I somehow doubt that he would have been playing tournaments in Milwaukee and Memphis to make up for it instead of the US Open and the British Open.