Senior PGA tour no rocking chair

Newcomers are stunned by level of competition

Many people figured out that since Kenny Perry played golf so well and even won the PGA Tour at the ages of 48 and 49 with over $9 million in cash, that he would just easily crush the competition and go into the 50 and over Champions Tour.

“You hear it all the time,” veteran John Cook said. “All the guys that just turn 50 and come out are supposed to just dominate.”

But that is not always the case since like many other Champions Tour newbies, the competition turned out to be tougher than Perry believed it to be.

“I was tripping,” said Perry, who finished 35th and 54th in his first two events after turning 50 last year. “It’s amazing how well they play out here. I was shocked. I was not ready when I came to Houston and San Antonio. They beat my brains out.”

Only one of this year’s first eight events had a winning score worse than 13 under par, proof that even the old guys can shoot low scores.

Next in line is the 72nd Senior PGA Championship on Thursday, as presented by KitchenAid at the Valhalla Golf Club. It will feature 23 major champions among the 156 players. Also included are 10 Ryder Cup captains and six World Golf Hall of Fame members.

“When you start looking at the names and they have ‘Hall of Fame’ by their name, that’s star power right there,” said Russ Cochran, a 52-year-old pro from Paducah, Ky. “And then you get the stamp of approval from guys like Tom Lehman, Fred Couples and Bernhard (Langer), and that makes it even better. You won’t find a much bigger star than Freddie Couples in any arena.

“It’s just loaded with star power out here. If you play good golf, you can sneak up towards the top, but to win you really have to play very well. You can’t make too many mistakes when you are playing against these guys.”

The year’s toughest is undoubtedly the Senior PGA.

“There are very few players you can say who don’t belong,” Langer said. “They do all belong, and many of them have phenomenal records, have had great careers and they are still very competitive. That’s why they’re still working at it.

“And that’s what makes it so much fun out here.”

Perry said that most newcomers in the Champions Tour are not prepared for the adjustment and the low scores. Like him, they were not prepared for the three rounds, except in the majors.

The first individual top-20 finish of Perry, who is still competing for both tours, at the recent Regions Tradition where he tied for fifth and the team event with his friend Scott Hoch where he tied for second.

“I remember I called him after the first two weeks (on the Champions Tour) and he was like, ‘I’ve got to get back on the regular tour where I can play well,’ ” Hoch said.