x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Perry enjoying fling in Desert Swing

The Race to Dubai has captured the imagination of a sizeable group of his American compatriots who will be jetting across the Atlantic in greater numbers from now on.

Kenny Perry, the American, enjoyed the desert-type course in Doha last week and is vowing to return to the region next year.
Kenny Perry, the American, enjoyed the desert-type course in Doha last week and is vowing to return to the region next year.

DOHA // Kenny Perry wishes he was 10 years younger and in a position to capitalise on the opportunity to become a golfing globe-trotter. The world No 13 is one of a vast army of stay-at-home Americans but, given his time again, he would display his talents on foreign fields far more often.

The Race to Dubai - the renamed European Tour's Order of Merit - has captured the imagination of Perry and a sizeable group of his compatriots who, he says will be jetting across the Atlantic in greater numbers and with greater frequency from now on. He wishes he could join them but is realistic enough to abandon such a fanciful notion. "I'm 50 in August so I should really be thinking more about the Seniors than the main tours," he said.

"If the Race to Dubai would have come along 10 years ago I reckon I would have been involved but I'm too old now to commit properly to it. I'm trying to slow down my schedule rather than step it up. I've got a bad knee, a bad elbow - my body just won't let me." Creaking limbs will not prevent the winner of 16 American tournaments from trying to add a rival tour title to his collection, however. A first enjoyable fling with the Desert Swing last week has got him hooked and he intends to sample the two other Gulf venues of Abu Dhabi and Dubai next year.

"I would like to play all three Desert Swing events next year; that may work out for me next year," he said. "I was excited about coming here because I had never travelled to this part of the world. I like desert-type courses. "The one in Doha reminded me of those in Arizona. I won last year in Phoenix. "The first thing I noticed when arriving in Doha was that the entry list was stronger than for the corresponding event on the US Tour at Torrey Pines in San Diego which tells you something."

Perry, runner-up in last year's US Masters and beaten in a play-off for the 1996 USPGA championship as he has waited in vain for a major title, was advised to compete in the Gulf by Boo Weekley, his friend and Ryder Cup teammate who took the plunge in Doha last year. And he plans to spread the word in the same fashion. "You have to let the guys make their own decisions but I don't see any harm in opening their eyes a little bit," he said.

"Boo spoke very highly of this tournament and I'm going to be doing the same to my pals back home. "So when you get that type of thing going through the locker rooms it is bound to have an effect. It will definitely result in guys wanting to branch out more." Even though no American players took part in the Dubai World Championship last November, that conclusion to the Race to Dubai was a burning issue among the professionals on the other side of the Atlantic, according to Perry.

"People started asking each other 'are you going to join the European Tour?' And all of a sudden we all started discussing the options," he said. "It may be a slow process but in the end there will be guys going in that direction - I'm certain of that." Taking his place in a high-quality Doha field was an ironic touch of role reversal for Perry who was condemned by his peers for supporting the European Tour ahead of his own.

The opposite happened to him in 2008 when he was widely rebuked for choosing to stay at home in pursuit of Ryder Cup points rather than travel to Royal Birkdale for the British Open. That decision was vindicated when he secured a coveted second call-up to the US team - an accomplishment made even more special by the match being played in his home state of Kentucky. He relished in the opportunity to play the role of local hero and secured 2.5 of the 16.5 points Paul Azinger's men gathered on the way to their comfortable recapturing of the trophy from Nick Faldo's Europeans.

"I got crucified for that decision to play Milwaukee rather than Birkdale," he said. "But I finished sixth in Milwaukee which was part of my game plan to make the Ryder Cup team. I was desperate to realise that dream and was delighted to do so." @Email:wjohnson@thenational.ae