PERRY wins Buick Open

Monday, August 13th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

GRAND BLANC, Mich. (AP) _ Kenny Perry was so nervous about winning the Buick Open that he didn't sleep Saturday night.

When he arrived at Warwick Hills on Sunday, Perry saw that Billy Mayfair set a PGA Tour nine-hole record with a 9-under par 27 on the back nine en route to a tournament-record 11-under 61.

``I thought, `Oh my goodness,''' Perry said. ``That was unbelievable.''

Perry showed no signs of anxiety on the course, however.

He earned his first PGA Tour victory in six years and the fourth of his career, closing with a 3-under 69 for a 25-under 263 total. Chris DiMarco (65) and Jim Furyk (66) tied for second, two strokes back, to improve their Ryder Cup chances.

Perry concentrated all of his mental and physical efforts toward the Buick Open, while there was a lot of talk about the PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup.

Perry picked up a $558,000 check and 150 Ryder Cup points with the win, but his 254 points aren't enough to be in the top 25.

``I didn't even look at the Ryder Cup, I'm so far behind,'' Perry said. ``I hadn't won in six years and this was a very key win for me, especially with a five-shot lead.''

Perry took the five-stroke lead with a tournament-record 54-hole total of 22-under 194. He finished one stroke off Robert Wrenn's 72-hole Buick Open record.

Perry became the first player on tour this year to shoot a 29 for nine holes twice in the same tournament, which he did Friday and Saturday.

He was more proud of ending his six-year drought, however.

``I didn't think I was ever going to win again, to tell you the truth,'' Perry said. ``It made me appreciate those three wins even more.''

Perry's last win was the 1995 Bob Hope Classic. He finished among the top 11 in four of his last seven tournaments.

The Buick Open provided a tuneup for the PGA Championship, which begins Thursday, and a chance for some to improve their chances of making the Ryder Cup team.

Furyk picked up 85 Ryder Cup points to move from 11th to eighth, and DiMarco jumped from 16th to 11th, just 10 points behind Tom Lehman, who missed the cut.

``Second place is never a great place,'' Furyk said. ``It's a good spot to finish in, but it always leaves you a little empty because you got so close. Earning some points and getting a little bit more of a solid position for the Ryder Cup is definitely a good consolation.''

The top 10 on the Ryder Cup points list after next week's PGA Championship will make the team, and captain Curtis Strange will add two other players.

``It's a huge goal now,'' DiMarco said. ``I'm not going to put any more pressure on myself, but I've been playing good. I just have to keep playing good. I'm probably going to have to earn it.''

Along with the nine-hole record, Mayfair also broke the tour's birdie-eagle streak with eight consecutive holes under par on Nos. 9-16. He eagled the 401-yard, par-4 10th and birdied the other seven holes.

``The hole just looked as big as a tub,'' Mayfair said. ``I just tried to stay out of my own way.''

He tied for 14th at 17-under 271.

Phil Mickelson, second on the money list, shot an 8-under 64 to finish at 18-under 270. Mickelson will look to shed the label of being ``the best golfer to never win a major'' at the PGA Championship.

``I'm right where I want to be going into next week,'' Mickelson said. ``I'm striking the ball well and I'm putting well. That's what this week was about.''