Kenny Perry had spent five years standing by while others went home with the first-place checks and made the acceptance speeches. All he asked for was a chance to find out what it was like.
"Winning is everything out here. Nobody cares who finishes second," he said. "I've finished second twice, and winning is everything."His wait ended Sunday when he rolled in a short birdie putt on the first hole of sudden death to beat Hale Irwin to capture the Memorial Tournament for his first career victory.
It wasn't as if he wasn't tested. Twenty other players had scores better or equal to the 70 he had in the first round. Then he shot a course-record 9-under 63, allowing the rest of the 104-player field to focus its attention on the 30-year-old Kentuckian.
A third-round 69 left him with a two-shot head start on leading money-winner Corey Pavin going into Sunday's final round.
Irwin, the reigning U.S. Open champion and a two-time winner of the Memorial, all but predicted a collapse for the non-winner.
"There is such a thing as being out in front and not knowing how to handle it," Irwin said. "On this course, it's easy to have a disaster hole. And you can lose it very quickly."
Perry's flirt with disaster came at the par-4 ninth, when he hit a fat 8-iron into a creek and took a double-bogey. Meanwhile, Irwin, playing in the group in front of Perry, had strung together four consecutive birdies to draw close. When Irwin birdied the 11th and 12th holes, he pulled even with Perry at 14-under.
"I thought that birdie at 12 might set up something," Irwin said later, "but I couldn't shake him."
Perry retook the lead with birdies at 15 and 16, then dropped back into a tie with Irwin when he bogeyed 17. When both players parred the closing hole - Perry's 71 and Irwin's 66 leaving them at 273 - the sudden-death playoff moved back to the 490-yard, par-5 15th hole.
Irwin lost despite shooting rounds of 65 and 66 over the final 36 holes, picking up nine shots over that span on Perry.
Pavin closed with a 71 to miss the playoff by two strokes with a 72-hole total of 275. Next came Mike Hulbert and Craig Stadler at 279, with Chip Beck and Ian Baker-Finch at 280.
At Tallahassee, Fla., Pat Bradley bounced back from successive bogeys with three birdies Sunday and defeated Japan's Ayako Okamoto by one stroke in the $1.1 million Centel Classic, the richest event on the LPGA Tour.
Bradley survived four bogeys during an up-and-down, 1-under-par 71 to finish with a 10-under 278 total.
Also on Sunday, Sandra Palmer shot a 1-over-par 74 for a 143 total and one-stroke victory over Hall of Famer Kathy Whitworth in the Centel Senior Challenge, the first LPGA Seniors tournament.
And at Austin, Texas, Lee Trevino and Mike Hill teamed for a 6-under 66 Sunday to win the Legends of Golf by two strokes with a 36-under-par 252 total.
Teammates Al Geiberger and Harold Henning made a sizzling charge at the leaders, but their 10-stroke deficit at the start of the day was too great, despite a final round of 14-under 58.