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An Interview with: KENNY PERRY
KELLY ELBIN: Kentucky native, Kenny Perry, joining us at the 37th Ryder Cup at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky. Kenny is making his second Ryder Cup appearance.
Certainly, Kenny, this holds special meaning, to be in your home state for the Ryder Cup. Just talk a little bit, please, about this first day in a team uniform representing the U.S. here.
KENNY PERRY: I've never signed so many autographs in my life. I've never heard, "Go Hilltop Perez, Go Tops, Go UK, Go Cardinals." I felt like the whole State of Kentucky was out there today. With J.B. and I playing together, it was a pretty neat experience for me. I just can't imagine what Tiger Woods puts up with all the time, and for one week in my life, I feel like him.
It was awesome. I mean, I grinned the whole time. I had a blast out there. I had a lot of people from Country Creek, from my golf course, from my home in Franklin, Kentucky, just from basically the whole state, pretty special for me to get out there. I hit it good today. I enjoyed it.
I just wish we started tomorrow (laughing). I'm ready to go.
Q. Zinger was in here a couple hours ago talking about the possibility of pairing you and J.B. in the opening match to get the crowd kind of rocking. Two questions: Has he talked to you guys about it; and two, how would you feel about that?
KENNY PERRY: I've kind of pushed for it all year. I mean, that was a guy ... he kind of let me ... what did I think about some of his picks. He kind of talked to all of us, and my choice was J.B.. I thought it would be special for two Kentuckians to lead the charge out here to try to win the Cup back. I guess it could backfire if we don't play well and they kick us pretty bad. It could also have a reverse role, too. I just think with the energy and the excitement, I just think it's going to put a lot of pressure on the Europeans, and I just think he's playing awesome. I just can't believe where he hit some of those drives today. It's just going to be a neat experience for us. He makes lots of birdies. He's a great match play player. If I can just calm him down a little bit, I think we'd be a tough team to beat.
Q. Is it now in stone? Is that the way it's going to happen in your mind?
KENNY PERRY: No, I don't know. I don't know how he's going to pair us. He said we'd probably get one shot, but I don't know if it'll be an alternate shot or the best ball format. I don't know.
KELLY ELBIN: Would be would be the best format for you?
KENNY PERRY: I love foursomes. I love alternate shot. That's always the game I enjoy the most. I don't know, he'd be go at either one of them. He hits it so far, it's unbelievable.
From the back tee on 13, he flew it on the green on the fly with his driver today, and he had about a 15 footer for eagle. Pretty amazing some of the places ... he hit sand wedge into 16. I hit driver, 6 iron. I had 200 yards away, and he had 100 yards to the hole on 16. I mean, that hole is 467 yards long, and he hit it 360 whatever. He's such a dominant force. The whole world loves power, if it's who can throw the baseball the fastest or who can hit the ball the farthest. If he can get guys like that hot and get them into the game, they're going to be tough to beat. What an asset to have on your side.
KELLY ELBIN: Any truth that J.B. drove 13 today?
KENNY PERRY: He did. I watched it. He flew it right on the green from the back tee box there today. I couldn't believe it.
Q. You talked a lot about the emotion coming into last week and getting some practice in and doing your homework. Now that you're in that moment today, are you glad you did that, A; and B, what was it like out there with all those people yelling and screaming?
KENNY PERRY: Well, I knew what it was going to be like. I needed to get my work done last week so I didn't feel like I could push the crowd away today. I wanted to embrace the crowd. I wanted to sign as many autographs as I could. I wanted to make sure they didn't call me the A word, the A hole word I've heard a few times.
So I was just having a good time. I've already done my homework on the golf course. I know how I want to play each hole. I just want to make sure I hit enough golf balls to keep me physically sharp come Friday, but I'm ready to go. I'm just out there kind of enjoying the walk.
I mean, I hit it beautiful on the back nine, our first nine holes. I didn't miss a shot. That just told me I'm mentally ready, I'm ready, I'm in the game, and I'm looking forward to Friday.
Q. What's the final rough estimate on how many people you've got here? I think you said they give you 30 tickets and you bought about $5,000 or $6,000 more?
KENNY PERRY: I've gotten 100 tickets that I've given away or ... it was in ... I guess Alex, it was in GolfWeek or ... they said I was short on tickets. That one little article, I've had people call Country Creek and say, "I've got an extra ticket, would you like to buy it." They called Country Creek and said, "I've got two extra tickets, I can't be there on Saturday," and we've just gotten them all. I've just gotten them all and distributed them. And then whatever I had left over I left at Country Creek to give to my members or give to people that wanted to come up at the last minute, so I left a few there at the golf course.
Q. Unrelated to that, you and Holmes are quintessential home grown guys. You were telling a story about how your old man planted the trees at the golf course where you learned the game, and he was pretty much taught by his dad. Does that make that pairing or that bond a little more special for you guys above and beyond the fact that you're from the Commonwealth or whatever it would be?
KENNY PERRY: Well, I think so. We have similar backgrounds, similar raisings. And we understand each other. I can pretty much look at him and know what he's thinking. I think it's pretty neat, what he's feeling in his golf game. Even though he's only 24 or 25 years old, I'm 23 years older than him, I understand him, and I just think it's just the Kentucky way, the southern way.
Q. As a Kentuckian, how would you characterize the Kentucky public that we're going to see here? Are they
KENNY PERRY: The Kentucky ... excuse me?
Q. The people, the spectators. Are they going to be quiet and conservative or are they going to be very noisy?
KENNY PERRY: Very noisy. Kentucky is a very boisterous state. We love our UK basketball.
You know, we're starved for golf here. We don't have a TOUR event here in Kentucky. We had the '96 and 2000 PGA, and I think they did an excellent job when they ran those events here. The spectators were great, the support was unbelievable.
I'll never forget in '96 I was paired with Norman during the last round, and Norman just kind of stepped aside and kind of let me have my day. It was a magical feeling for me. I mean, the spectators ... it's going to be a very pro USA crowd.
Q. I just wanted to clarify something you said earlier about needing to get all your work done last week. You were up here last week, and for how long?
KENNY PERRY: Two days. I spent two days playing the golf course and working all the greens and working course management, setup, how I set up each hole.
So I've already charted everything. I've charted all the greens, got all my books and did all my homework last week so I could enjoy these ... I knew these few days would be pretty fast paced, up tempo, a lot of gallery, a lot of friends, a lot of family, everybody wanting to kind of get a little piece of me.
So I wanted to enjoy these next couple days and not feel stressed out feeling like I needed to practice, I needed to really work and really get after it.
Q. Can you give us some insight into how you change or adjust your game or mindset when it comes to playing as a team member and with a partner? What big adjustments
KENNY PERRY: I'm better. I'm better as a team player. It just seems like to me I just ... I know how to make my partner comfortable and make him relax. I'm pretty accurate off the tee, and that takes a lot of hiccups out of your game.
To me, I just understand how to play team golf. I mean, I'm a big time believer in pumping your partner up, and then actually making a few putts for him and actually showing that I can be a leader out there.
I've had a lot of success on ... my only Ryder Cup experience, I was 0 2 and only played two matches in '04, but I've had a real good record in my three Presidents Cups. So it's been a lot of fun. I've learned; Davis Love taught me a lot when we played down in South Africa, when I was his partner and we won three or four of the matches we played in. I learned a lot from him. He taught me a lot, and now I can kind of teach it to the younger kids on this team.
Q. You talked about having to calm J.B. down maybe. Is there any concern for either of you that you're having so much fun and the crowd is so much behind you that it can be a distraction and it can be a detriment?
KENNY PERRY: Aren't we supposed to have fun? Really, seriously, this week
Q. Can it be a distraction?
KENNY PERRY: No, we're going to feed off the energy of the gallery. I know 100 percent it's going to be a great feeling. If we get behind, they're going to pump us up. If we get ahead, they're going to root us on. It's really going to be an outstanding three days for us. They'll do whatever it takes to help us get a win, and I think to me that's pretty special.
Q. Driving around last night looking for dinner, we saw this sandwich shop, electric marquee outside, "Good luck, Kenny Perry." I'm told there are billboards up in certain spots around the state if you're on the right interstate with your face on them. I'm wondering whether that pumps you up with an enormous sense of pride and accomplishment or if that's intimidating, piles of pressure on, maybe a little bit of all the above? And now that you've put all your eggs into this basket, how does it feel to be sitting in that chair?
KENNY PERRY: I'm excited. It's a great opportunity for me. I had a buddy of mine call me. He says, "I just got scared to death yesterday. I just drove by the fairgrounds and I saw a 50 foot scarecrow statue of you." It's a huge banner they've put at the fairgrounds that says: "WKU, play great Kenny" or whatever. There's a huge picture of me holding the John Deere trophy. I actually saw it driving in coming to the hotel when I drove from home. It's neat.
I hear they're going to pull that and bring it to the Western Kentucky football field and display it at the football stadium, which it'll stay there forever, which to me is a big honor. I have a lot of pride and it makes me feel awesome.
I've told everybody I've put all my eggs in this basket. This is what I'll be remembered for in my career in golf, period. But I've told everybody, I've prepared, I've done all my work, I'm ready. I'm ready to play. And if it doesn't go my way, I can live with that. I can lay my head on that pillow at night and I'll sleep good. But if it goes the way I think it can go, it'll be the neatest week of my life. It'll beat any of my wins by a mile.
Q. You may have covered this, but are you going to lobby the captain heavy to get you and J.B. out there first?
KENNY PERRY: Definitely, definitely. I mean, yes, I would love for us to be the first match out Friday morning. I've asked it, but I don't know if I'll get it.
KELLY ELBIN: The pride of Kentucky, Kenny Perry, thank you very much.
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