The Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club might be just what Kenny Perry needs to finally put behind him one of the most disappointing finishes of his career on the PGA Tour.
"He's been saying for several years now this is his favorite tournament and his favorite course," tournament director Dan Sullivan said.
The results speak for themselves.
Perry, who last month nearly supplanted Memorial founder and host Jack Nicklaus as the oldest player to win a major championship before stumbling down the stretch at The Masters, joined Tiger Woods as the Memorial's only three-time winner a year ago when he rallied during the final round to defeat a foursome of runners-up by two strokes. That group included former Masters champion Mike Weir.
Perry, who earned his first career victory at the Memorial in 1991 and picked up his second title in 2003, also surged past Woods as the tournament's all-time leading money winner with $3,092,542 in 20 appearances.
He has played the event every season but two since he first appeared in Dublin in 1987. He didn't qualify a year later, and he had to skip the 2006 tournament to attend his youngest daughter's high school graduation.
"The magic always happens for me here," Perry, who is 48 and the oldest Memorial champion, said after he finished at 8-under-par 280 for his 10th career victory.
Still, he had to be wondering if he was going to win again anywhere. His last win had come at the Bank of America Colonial in 2005, and he squandered two prime opportunities to end that drought last May shortly before the Memorial. He was tied for second at THE PLAYERS Championship entering the final round but shot 81 and tumbled down the leaderboard. A week later, he hit his approach shot into a pond on the first playoff hole at the AT&T Classic as Ryuji Imada prevailed.
Perry's latest victory at Muirfield Village turned his season around, however. His win at the John Deere Classic early last July was his third in seven weeks. That stretch enabled him to play his way onto the Ryder Cup team, which last September at Valhalla Golf Club in his home state of Kentucky defeated Europe for the first time since 1999. His record there was 2-1-1.
Perry became the oldest player on the PGA Tour to win three times in a season, and he finished a career-high fifth on the money list with $4,663,794 in 26 starts. He made 24 cuts and posted seven top-10s.
He showed no signs of letting up either when this season began in January at the Mercedes-Benz Championship, where he tied for sixth. Three weeks later he picked up his 13th career win at the FBR Open, and he logged three other top-10 finishes before leading by two strokes on Sunday at The Masters with two holes to play after knocking an 8-iron within one foot on the par-3 16th at Augusta National.
It looked as if Perry might finally win his first major on the same course where Nicklaus became the oldest major champion in 1986, but a bogey-bogey finish put him into a three-man playoff that Angel Cabrera eventually won on the second hole.
So the question now becomes can Perry recover?
That's especially prudent given his struggles following a late collapse at Valhalla during the PGA Championship in 1996. He bogeyed the 72nd hole on Sunday and lost to Mark Brooks in a playoff, embarking on a stretch where he rarely contended over the next four seasons while finishing 90th, 58th, 94th and 52nd on the money lists, respectively. He finally broke through again by winning the Buick Open in 2001, however, and the Memorial in '03 was the second of his three victories that year. He also won twice in '05.
Perry went home to Franklin, Ky., for two weeks last month to regroup after The Masters.
"I contemplated everything one day driving around for three hours in the country," he said after he resurfaced at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans at the end of April. "It's a farming community and there's lots of cattle and horses. It's very peaceful and very serene. It was just kind of my time to reflect, and it was all very positive."
Still, he closed with a final-round 78 in New Orleans to tie for 59th. He was among the leaders entering Sunday in his next start in early May at THE PLAYERS Championship only to shoot 74 while finishing tied for 22nd place.
Hence, the sight of Muirfield Village likely will be a welcome one for Perry, who would love to enjoy at least one last hurrah before becoming eligible for the Champions Tour in 14 more months.
"I was watching (The Masters) and I'll say this: I think all the fans there and around the world, really, were pulling hard for him," Sullivan said. "He's just so approachable and he's so down to earth. I think that's why he's become such a fan favorite, and especially here.
"When he won here back in '91 nobody knew him. Now he's one of the most prominent players out there. And regardless of his age, I think he's still got more than enough game to win."
The Memorial Tournament crowd gives a standing ovation to Kenny Perry as he walks off the 18th green after the final round last season. Perry shot a final-round 69 to finish at 8-under-par 280 and joined Tiger Woods as the event's only three-time winners.
Kenny Perry leads the Memorial Tournament money list by earning $3,092,542 in 20 appearances.
Name: James Kenneth Perry
Residence: Franklin, Ky.
Family: Wife, Sandy; daughters Lesslye and Lindsey; son Justin
Special interests: Harley Davidson motorcycles, racing and restoring vintage muscle cars
PGA Tour wins: 13, including the FBR Open earlier this season
Memorial history: Victory in 2008 was his third overall and second in six years. He leads the all-time Memorial money list at $3,092,542 in 20 appearances. His 9-under 63 in 2007 is the lowest final-round score.
Of note: Six players have multiple Memorial victories and Tiger Woods (1999-2001) is the only other three-time champion.