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Missed opportunity

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If this column were written by a cheap-shot artist who goes for the low-brow line, it might start by asking from this weekend's Memorial: Did Matthew Goggin, after blowing a 54-hole lead, officially change the spelling of his last name to G-a-g-g-i-n?

Thank goodness we don't traffic in the cheap shot here. Instead, we turn our attention to the other ancient sportswriter secret: second-guessing.

While the rest of the golf world glows in the good fortune and skill and patience of Kenny Perry, we take the low road and are here to knock him.

Sure, there's plenty to admire in the Kenny Perry story. After all, nobody has endured the soul-sucking leeches that are the golf gods in the last month like the Good Guy Perry.

While there burns in his slight paunch of a 47-year-old gut a fire to make the U.S. Ryder Cup team this fall in his native Kentucky, he's having trouble closing the deal.

First came the right cross to the jaw (the 81 on Sunday at Sawgrass while in contention); then came the MMA-styled knee to the groin (the kick off the tree into water in his playoff with Ryuji Imada at Atlanta).

To see him keep his wits, play well and win the classy Memorial Tournament for a record-tying third time, then, was a fine bit of reward. A guy like Perry deserves it, too. He's so giving and kind, he spent big dough to build an affordable muni in his home state, saying he wanted regular folk to enjoy the royal and ancient game.

It takes some doing to rip Kenny Perry for anything, but after winning the Memorial, he let slip that his game plan to make the Ryder Cup team involves skipping the U.S. Open this month at Torrey Pines.

To which we answer: Say what?

OK, so his main goal is the Ryder Cup. We get that. And we get that he's from Kentucky and he's proud of the Bluegrass State. We get that he likes horses and Louisville basketball and coalmines and fried chicken served by a silver-haired man in a white suit with a black bowtie.

We even get that he doesn't play well at Torrey Pines. Or, at least we get that he says he doesn't play well.

But still … Kenny … the U.S. Open, my good man! Our national championship! The most democratic of all events!

If the U.S. Open were a building, it would be the Capitol Building. If the U.S. Open were a statue, it'd be the Statue of Liberty. If the U.S. Open were a parched document, it'd be the Declaration of Independence. Hell, if the U.S. Open were a Competitive Eating Contest, it would be the Coney Island Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest on the Fourth of July.

And Kenny Perry is … skipping it?

Perry instead will play tournaments he feels he has a chance to win, such as this week's event in Memphis which, by the way, is not the U.S. Open, in case you were wondering.

Considering that Ryder Cup points are maximized for majors, Perry's decision to blow off Torrey Pines seems, at best, a case of over-thinking the matter, and, at worst, an act of treason that may require congressional intervention.

Well, maybe not. But you get the idea.

Understanding that Torrey is a beast that plans to crush everything in its path in two weeks' time, and understanding that "Torrey Fear" is a legitimate phobia diagnosed by Tour doctors, can't Perry see that he is a) playing well at the moment; b) the kind of straight hitter who can hang around at a U.S. Open; c) the sort of veteran who will outlast overeager young bucks who succumb to major adrenaline; and d) passing up a chance to play in the ever-lovin' U.S. Open?

Perry has made the cut in four of his last five Opens, and even notched a T3 in '03 at Olympia Fields. With 36-hole sectional qualifiers all over America today, Perry had his options to enlist, too. Stick a peg in the ground, hit a fairway and go.

Plus, his "I don't play Torrey well" argument doesn't hold water. He went 74-71 to make it on the cut line at this year's Buick Invitational, but got a T67 when the Tour had that New Coke idea to institute the "Made Cut, Don't Play Weekend" rule. Then he skipped Torrey Pines in 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002 … wait a minute. How can a guy say he doesn't like playing a place if he doesn't play it? It's the golf version of the old country song: "How Can I Miss You If You Won't Go Away"?

He played it in 1997, shot 74 in the first round and withdrew. That's it: Three rounds of golf in the past decade-plus at the golf course. And how long ago was his '97 round? Considering Tiger's all-time major championship ledger was "0," that's about three centuries ago in golf years.

Take this the right way, Kenny. We want to see you at the U.S. Open. We want to see your Ryder Cup dream take wings and soar when you notch a top-10 at the U.S. Open or – get this – when you win the U.S. Open. Come on, K Man. Dare to dream. The scenario is out there: Tiger's hurt. There'll be too much pressure on Phil in his hometown. Euros never win it. The last three winners have been Michael Campbell, Geoff Ogilvy and Angel Cabrera, and you think anybody had them in the U.S. Open pool before they teed off?

If playing for your country in the Ryder Cup is the ultimate, how about getting there the ultimate way: By playing great at our National Open. Why, the mere thought of it makes me want to blast Lee Greenwood's "Proud to be an American" on my iPod while reading a dog-eared copy of the Gettysburg Address. I'm getting teary-eyed. We'd better move on.

Mulligan of the week

• So, let's get this straight: Jack Nicklaus is the greatest champion ever. Jack Nicklaus hosts a golf tournament. Jack Nicklaus invites you to his golf tournament.

At the conclusion of your play at his golf tournament, Nicklaus awaits you behind the 18th green to shake your hand. You have one obligation: To shake the Golden Bear's paw.

No, make those two obligations: You shake the paw, and then you thank him profusely for the opportunity.

No, make those three obligations: You shake the paw, thank him profusely, and then tell him it was an honor to play in the Memorial.

For good measure, you may want to genuflect.

What you don't do is what J.B. Holmes did when he holed out: He blew past the Bear, and didn't shake the paw.

Whoa, doctor. Secretary, cancel Holmes' invite for '09.

Now, we'll give Holmes a massive benefit of the doubt and think that maybe, just maybe, he didn't see Nicklaus standing there. And with that ginormous bit of generosity, we'll say … give that man a mulligan!

Broadcast moment of the week

"Nick Price, what do you think?" – Gary McCord, asking Nick Faldo his impressions of Justin Rose.

You want to tick off Nick Faldo? Call him Nick Price on national TV.

"I'm the European captain, Gary," Faldo said, dryly and acidly at the same time, "not the South African captain. Or the Zimbabwean captain, to be more precise."


On another note, we're starting to see Faldo's Ryder Cup juices flow. He talked up his range work with Rose before the round, and when Nantz said to Faldo, "So you're getting an assist?" Faldo shot right back: "I hope so."

Faldo may start wearing Jagger-styled Union Jack slacks to the broadcast booth soon.

Scorecard of the week

73-78: Missed Cut – Ernie Els, Memorial Tournament

We're officially worried about our man Ernie. Since winning at the Honda, he's missed four of six cuts. He did post a T6 at the Players to raise hopes, but any hope of the two-time U.S. Open champion riding into Torrey Pines with any semblance of momentum rides on the Big Easy stringing something decent together in Memphis this week.

Eat some ribs and relax, Big Ern. Get your head in a good place. We need you.

Where do we go from here?

• To Memphis, where Els tries to get it right, Perry tries to pad his Ryder Cup scorecard, and where there will be no sight of Tiger or Phil. Instead, they retreat to their respective corners for UFC 85 – also known as next week's U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.

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