James Lawton: Perry accepts he'll never rank among golf's greats

You thought you had seen everything any one golf tournament could bestow when they put the Green Jacket on Angel Cabrera. But you hadn't, not until you saw Kenny Perry beneath a stand of pine trees.

Defeat is never a welcome companion and it could not be said that the 48-year-old from Kentucky, who a few minutes earlier had been so close to becoming the oldest man ever to win a major title, was embracing it easily.

No, he didn't embrace it but he accepted its meaning, to both himself and the wider world, in a way that will surely prove as unforgettable as any of the smoke and fire brought to the last day of the 73rd Masters by Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods.

Perry thought that for one day of his life at least he could withstand that kind of flaming virtuosity and the leader board confirmed his optimism. Indeed, until his misadventures on the 17th and 18th holes it seemed on the point of announcing his enshrinement. But then it gave him a far bleaker message. It said that in golf there is a line that such as the Tiger and Mickelson can stroll past as though it isn't there, and that someone like Cabrera, who already had the notch of the US Open on his belt, on the best of his days can also negotiate – but Kenny Perry couldn't.

Perry knew as well as anyone on the grounds of the darkening golf course that at the most important competitive moment of his career he had choked, profoundly and, when his chip at the 17th scuttled too quickly across the green, it indeed seemed it was probably irrevocable.

So now, beneath the pines illuminated by the TV cameras, he had to deal with a fact that would never leave him whenever he handled a golf club. As he did so, with unforced humility and a dignity that seemed to grow with every carefully measured phrase, it was almost possible to feel less badly for him in the loss of the Green Jacket that had seemed so likely to be his.

Yes, he lost the jacket and all the money and the celebrity that go with it, but Perry and his family will never want for a dollar – and, anyway, what price can you put on a man re-asserting his humanity at the kind of moment which has down the years destroyed, whether they know it or not, the lives of so many of his co-workers.

"I had so many people pulling for me out there, so you know I have a lot of memories. It just seems that when I get down to these deals [he lost in a play-off for the US PGA title on his home course, Valhalla, 13 years ago] I can't seem to execute.

"Great players make it happen, and your average players don't. And that's the way it is."

There was no such reflection, naturally, from the man who had just proved that, despite the brevity of his rehabilitation from the restructuring of his wounded knee, his status as arguably the greatest player of all time remains as sure as the prospect of a Georgian sunrise. "The fact is," said the Tiger, "I nearly won the tournament with a band-aid swing." No time for commiserations, here, no toying with the intangibles of form and fate. No, there was none of that, just the singular view of golf's most singular man.

Had it widened slightly, there might have been room for the view that, though Perry's dénouement was terribly harsh on his spirit, it did come after 16 holes of quite remarkable nerve and application. When Perry (right) choked the effect could only be more dramatic because of what had gone before.

It left him with his last and perhaps most onerous challenge. He had to reach into his bag for the kind of perspective that might fight off the demons that sped through pines like so many bats.

He went on: "I just didn't get the job done again and I'll look back the rest of my life saying what could have been, but I'm not really going to go there because if this is the worst thing that happens in my life, my life's pretty good. It really is.

"I got my mom struggling with cancer, my dad's struggling. I got a lot of people who are hurting right now and here I am playing golf for a living and having the time of my life. I'm not going to play pity person on me. And you know what? I'm going to enjoy it. I really am. I fought hard and I was proud of the way I hung in there.

"I have to see the whole situation. I have to accept that the average player doesn't get it done ... and that I'm an average player. You see Tiger make a putt, see all the big stars make it happen. That's why they are where they are and we're down here.

"So I had a good career, 13 wins. So it's more than average in that way. I won some good tournaments. But when you look back at the majors and history, people look back at what you do in the majors. And to be quite honest, I never had a lot of great majors. I had my chances to win two but other than that I had a third at an Open [US] and a top 10 at the British, but nothing great."

Perry was asked how many times he will replay the last few holes of Sunday's approaching dusk. "Look," he said as one of his daughters wept silently, "I'm all right. I'm sure I'll get in situations where I'll think about it at times but I'm pretty good. I have a short memory. I always have. And I really try not to dwell in the past because my life is good now. Sure, there will be heartache, but everyone has a little of that.

"What I can say is that it has been a special week and that, besides losing, there are things I will be pleased to remember. It's so neat to get in the moment and in the heat, get in the hunt, and it's really to say, 'You know what? I was there, I did it, I was good enough to win, but I didn't win.' So maybe this will help me down the road, maybe not.

"I know it will do me no good to think, 'I could have had the Green Jacket.' It's no use thinking about it. I don't have the jacket. I lost. I shook Angel's hand. He did great. We were battling all day out there, and I kept staying ahead of him, and that was amazing. What happened was he hit the quality shots coming in that you need to hit to win and I didn't do it."

So did that make Angel Cabrera a great player? "Yes," said Perry. "He's won two majors."

It was only when he said that, with an accompanying sigh, did you realise how well and how bravely Kenny Perry had played his most difficult lie.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
video
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Extras
indybest
News
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
education
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
sport
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform