(Reuters) - Searing heat and a hilly course are likely to pose problems for players at this week’s U.S. Senior Open in Omaha, Nebraska where Kenny Perry hopes his power game can help him clinch a second successive major title.
The 52-year-old American is one of the longest hitters on the over-50s Champions Tour and he views his length off the tee as “a huge advantage” on the 6,711-yard, par-70 layout at Omaha Country Club.
“It’s all going to be how well I drive the golf ball is how well I play this week,” Perry told reporters on Wednesday while preparing for Thursday’s opening round at the fourth of the season’s five senior majors.
”Definitely length is going to be a big advantage this week, but you’ve still got to hit the fairways. The rough is very penal out there. It’s chip-out rough.
“It’s got definitely a U.S. Open feel out there, with the greens as small as they are and undulating. But with my power, if I can keep driving it straight like I did at Fox Chapel ... I’ve got a huge advantage.”
Perry landed his first major title by two shots in last month’s Senior Players Championship at Fox Chapel Golf Club in Pittsburgh for his third career win on the Champions Tour.
He capped a superb driving display there with a closing six-under-par 64 to seal victory but this week he knows he will need stamina as well as power if he is to visit the winner’s circle for a second consecutive event.
”This is probably the hardest walking course I’ve ever been on,“ Perry said of the Omaha Country Club layout. ”I played the (PGA) Tour 27 years and a couple of years out here and it’s the hilliest I’ve seen. It’s very physically demanding.
”You’re always coming off the green and walking 50 to 80 yards up the hill to the next tee box, and then you’re walking straight down and then back (up).
“The guys that will do well this week are going to be the guys who are in pretty good shape.”
Winning a first major crown, even at senior level, meant a great deal to Perry, who had twice been beaten in playoffs for one of golf’s four blue riband events on the regular PGA Tour.
”Anything that has major attached to it was always my one goal,“ said the American, a 14-times winner on the PGA Tour. ”I came so close at the PGA (Championship) when Mark Brooks beat me in the playoff, and then I lost to Cabrera at the Masters.
”Our majors out here (on the Champions Tour) probably are not looked upon like they are on the PGA Tour, but yet they’re still a major.
“It still will be attached to your name,” said Perry, who was pipped by fellow American Brooks in the 1996 PGA Championship at Valhalla, then lost out in a three-way playoff for the 2009 Masters won by Argentina’s Angel Cabrera.
Perry also suffered a close call in May at the Senior PGA Championship at Bellerive Golf Club in St. Louis where he fell back into a tie for second after going into the final round with a two-stroke lead.
”It was a huge monkey off my back when I won (the Senior Players Championship),“ he said. ”I had a three-shot lead with six to play at the Senior PGA, and I blew that one.
“It was finally nice to get that off my back. It was finally nice to say, ‘Hey, yeah, I was able to do it.’ That was awesome. That was a great feeling.”
Englishman Roger Chapman is defending his title this week, having won last year’s U.S. Senior Open by two strokes in Lake Orion, Michigan.
Also competing are Americans Tom Watson and Loren Roberts, who are each seeking to emulate Jack Nicklaus by winning a fourth different senior major title.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Gene Cherry