After leading for most of the first three days, Bernhard Langer said Saturday that he would need to shoot under par in the final round of the tournament, because he knew Kenny Perry, who was in second place, would do the same. He was partially right.
Perry did shoot under par, but just barely. His 1-under 69 was not good enough to unseat Langer, who shot a par-70 round but still won the tournament.
Perry entered Sunday trailing by three strokes, but the defending champion erased that lead with ease, shooting 4 under on the first seven holes to take a share of the lead at 16 under. That was before the rain.
Near the end of the front nine, rain came down in a hurry. It didn't pour for long, but it left its mark, leaving soaked greens and washing away Perry's title hopes.
"I struggled ever since it started raining and the greens really softened up even more, so I struggled," he said.
Perry's final birdie came on No. 9 and he bogeyed Nos. 8, 12, 13 and 16, before finishing at 13 under, two strokes off the eventual winning score.
After opening with a par-70 round Thursday, Perry shot 12 under over the next 36 holes to put himself in second place entering Sunday. Langer then demonstrated that he is, in fact, human and shot 2 over on the back nine Sunday, leaving the door open for Perry. But he couldn't capitalize.
"I fought hard and shot 69," Perry said." I wanted to shoot somewhere 65 or better. It didn't happen.
"It was just a battle out there."
Perry claimed that part of the reason for his decline was in his chipping game and down the stretch, a few short-yardage shots cost him.
"I'm just not a good chipper anymore," he said. "I've got the yips with short shots ... 50-, 60-yard shots kill me now and I'm not very good at them."
But it was a putt that doomed Perry, a winner of 14 career PGA Tour events.
Trailing by one at No. 16, Perry had a short putt for par to keep him in contention. His ball just missed the cup and the resulting bogey dragged him into fourth place, where he would finish. Jeff Sluman took second after a playoff with Langer and Russ Cochran, a longtime friend of Perry's and fellow western Kentucky native, took third.
Perry, who has never won a regular-tour major championship but has three top-three finishes, admitted that nerves got to him a little bit after he took sole possession of the lead on 12.
"Your weaknesses usually show up when you're a little nervous," he said.
But Perry was pleased with his attempt to defend his title. A year ago at this event, he won by shooting 19 under.
"All in all, it was a good week. I can't complain," Perry said. "It was the best defense I've ever had. On all of my Tour events that I've won, I've rarely made the cut the next year. To have a chance to actually have the lead at a tournament with five holes to play, awesome. Proud of myself. Hung in there."
Hayes Gardner: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @HayesGardner.