Tue, May 27, 2003 - Page 19 News List

Perry fends off charge by Leonard to win Colonial


Not even a near-perfect round by Justin Leonard could challenge Kenny Perry in the final round at the Colonial Sunday.

Leonard tied Perry's course record with a closing 9-under 61, missing a chance for golf history with his only bogey at the 18th hole, and finished at 13 under. He was still six strokes behind Perry, who had a closing 68.

Perry's 19-under total broke the tournament record of 16 under held by 1993 winner Fulton Allem. He was already a stroke under the record after his 61 Saturday gave him an eight-stroke lead.

Perry's victory was an anticlimatic ending at the Colonial, which began on a historic note Thursday when Annika Sorenstam became the first woman in 58 years to play on the PGA Tour.

The only drama during the final round involved Leonard. At 8 under for the day after his 1.2m birdie at the 163m 13th hole, he could have become the fourth person to shoot 59 in a PGA Tour event. The last was David Duval at the Bob Hope Classic in 1999.

But his 9-iron came up short of the green 20m from the flag, and he pitched 3m past. His par putt for a 60 just slid past the hole.

"I'm trying to hit the ball a foot from the hole. Maybe that was a mistake," Leonard said of his approach on the 18th hole. "I was trying to hit close and it didn't work out."

It was just the fifth win for Perry in 17 years on the tour, the first since the 2001 Buick Open. The US$900,000 check was his largest on tour, after winning US$751,171 his first 11 cuts this year, and pushed his career earnings over US$11 million.

Jeff Sluman (65) finished third at 12 under, a stroke better than Brandt Jobe (64).

All of the attention the first two days was on Sorenstam, who missed the cut by four strokes at 5 over after rounds of 71 and 74. Crowds had gathered 10 to 12 deep along the ropes to watch her play. The media room was also packed with over 300 people for Sorenstam's post-round news conferences. But the crowds spread throughout the course and the media presence diminished significantly once Sorenstam was done for the tournament.

Perry took a share of the lead with a second-round 64, but went virtually overlooked because of Sorenstam. He followed Saturday with his career-low round that included three just-missed birdie putts.

Colonial played its full length, but never showed its true bite during a week when the greens never firmed up and the usually breezy conditions were absent. Only three players had shot 61s in the previous 56 Colonials.

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