2012 ACE GROUP CLASSIC
25 Years of Champions Tour in Naples
- Langer returns to form with four-shot victory in 2011
- Couples holds off hard-charging Armour in 2010
- Roberts is Boss of the Bay in 2009
- Hoch wins playoff for second straight victory in 2008
- Wadkins birdies on No. 18 and wins The ACE in 2007
- Loren keeps on soarin' in 2006
- Mark James holds off Irwin, Wargo in 2005
- Stadler wins 3-way playoff in 2004
- Vicente Fernandez takes 2003 title
- Hale Irwin rallies past Tom Watson in 2002
- Gil Morgan takes 2001 title for second win
- Lanny Wadkins wins four-way playoff in 2000
- Allen Doyle goes wire-to-wire in 1999
- Gil Morgan's chip wins it in 1998
- Hale Irwin edges Bob Murphy in 1997
- "Mr. 59" wins by 1 in '96
- Bob Murphy takes rain-shortened 1995 event
- Mike Hill goes back-to-back in 1994
- Mike Hill staves off Stockton in 1993
- Jimmy Powell's hot finish wins it in 1992
- Lee Trevino does it again in 1991
- Lee Trevino outduels Bruce Crampton in 1990
- Gene Littler rallies past Henning in 1989
- Gary Player wins inaugural event in 1988
NAPLES — Kenny Perry loves Naples. He loves the beach, and loves to relax. And he loves winning golf tournaments in Naples, too.
"Beautiful, right on the beach and looking out on the Gulf there," Perry said. "It was magical. I’ve had a lot of success here in Naples. I really like Naples. I’ve enjoyed my time here."
On a windy Sunday, Perry birdied three of his first eight holes, and went on to a five-shot victory in the ACE Group Classic at the TwinEagles Club for his second Champions Tour victory.
Perry won twice in Naples previously — teaming with John Huston in 2005 and Scott Hoch in 2008 at the Franklin Templeton Shootout, an unofficial PGA Tour event.
But he didn’t need a partner Sunday. Perry drained an 18-foot par putt on No. 1 to set the tone.
"When you’re putting in 20-, 25-mile an hour winds, you’re at the mercy of the wind on the greens," Perry said. "I slipped it right in there. It just broke beautifully, just fell in the left side. To me, I thought ‘Game on. Let’s go.’"
Only nobody else did. After Perry birdied No. 3 to take a four-stroke lead, no one else got closer. Larry Mize started the day three behind, but made one birdie and eight pars on the front nine. Then Tom Lehman was four back after a birdie on No. 11, but bogeyed the next hole.
"He played very very well," said Lehman, who tied for third and played with Perry. "Two-under-par today is a very good score. He was pretty much error-free throughout the day. It was tough to get any pressure on him."
"He was hard to catch, and Tom and I really couldn’t get anything going to put any pressure on him," Mize said.
Defending champion Bernhard Langer eagled No. 17 for the third straight day, and ended up in second place, five shots back.
"It was a good week," he said. "I played well, it’s just that Perry ran off with it. He put up a fantastic score (Saturday) and played well again."
Perry tied the largest margin of victory in the 25-year-old tournament at five strokes with Allen Doyle in 1999.
Perry, last year’s Rookie of the Year, set the tour’s 36-hole scoring record in relation to par at 18 under following Saturday’s second round. Perry finished with 24 birdies, two short of the tour record for a 54-hole event.
The bogey on the final hole dropped Perry into a tie with Langer for the tournament scoring record that Langer set in 2011. It was the 12th straight year the winner came out of the final group.
Perry, who won $240,000 out of the $1.6-million purse, was the SAS Championship winner in October a day after his sister died of breast cancer, two years to the day Perry’s mother died from cancer. Perry moved into fourth in the Charles Schwab Cup season-long points race. Dan Forsman maintained the lead.
Sunday, the only time Perry felt like he was grinding while holding the big lead was on the final hole.
That was when his tee shot went way left, and he was in jeopardy of falling below 20 under. Of course, he had six shots to play with.
"I really wanted that putt," the 51-year-old said. "I really wanted to shoot 20 under. I didn’t want to fall back to 19 like I did at Colonial one year. I had a seven-stroke lead coming in and I doubled and I went from 21 to 19. I said ‘I ain’t doing that this week, so I was able to get that putt in.’ Ecstatic. It’s a great win for me."
After two calm days resulted in low scores, winds blew 20 mph with gusts near 30 mph during the final round. The average score jumped to 72.234 from 69.949 in the second round.
Lehman was in second for most of the day, but bogeyed No. 12 and didn’t birdie No. 13 after almost reaching the green in two.
"From that point on, it was just really tough for me to kind of stay in the game," the reigning Player of the Year said. "I just felt like my chances had kind of slipped away."
Lehman bogeyed the par-5 17th after hitting a pitch shot in the water. Bill Glasson and Mike Goodes, who won Tuesday’s qualifier, tied for third with him at 14 under.
First-round leader Larry Mize was tied for second on the last hole, but put two balls in the water and dropped to seventh.
"Much tougher day with the wind," Mize said. "We had two ideal days to play and today was a tough day."
But Perry made it look easy.