PEABODY — Kenny Perry, long off the tee and his short game as steady as grandpa’s rocking chair, inched ahead of playing partner Kirk Triplett early on Sunday and pocketed the US Senior Open here at the Salem Country Cub, the North Shore’s emerald sandbox, with a final round 2-under-par 68 (16 under par for the tournament at 264).
“I never had such a mental challenge all week,” said a relieved Perry, who notched four sub-par rounds, 65-64-67-68, to capture his second Senior Open championship. “It fell my way. My putter got hot.”
Perry, who began the afternoon a stroke behind Triplett at 14 under, pulled even with a birdie on the opening hole and then moved ahead by a stroke when Triplett bogeyed No. 3.
The 55-year-old Triplett pulled back into a tie on No. 4, but uncharacteristic bogeys on holes 5, 8, and 9 (one more than he had in his first three rounds) plummeted him four strokes behind Perry into the homecoming nine holes. It was all but over, with Perry 16 under par and Triplett at 12 on the front nine. The best Triplett could do was cut the margin in half over the remaining nine holes, Perry marching to a bogey-free afternoon.
“I couldn’t look at the leaderboard,” said the good-humored Triplett, “because I was so busy trying to clean up my own mess.”
Triplett finished with a 71 and was 14 under for the tournament (62-67-66-71). His 266 was the lowest non-winning score in tournament history.
With the win, Perry, 56, added $720,000 to his career earnings of some $40 million. Triplett, who said after his 66 on Saturday that a win here would be the biggest accomplishment of his career, pocketed $432,000 as the runner-up.
Some of the wobble in his game, admitted Perry, was simply the product of nerves.
“Oh, sure,” he said. “The more you want something, the harder it is to get it.”
And then he listed his short parade of horribles that proved his downfall: poor irons; bad contact on hole No. 7, misjudging a couple of pins.
“It would have been a thrill to win it,” he said. “But I didn’t have the game to do it today. I was off-balance from the start. I was fighting myself more than anything else, and I felt fortunate [on the return nine] to get it down to two shots.”
It was Perry’s second time winning the Open, coming only four years after his 2013 triumph at Omaha Country Club, where he carded a 13 under for a five-stroke win over Fred Funk.
Brandt Jobe, who began the day in third place, maintained his position with a 70, 9 under for the tourney, and finished one stroke ahead of Fred Couples and Tom Lehman at T4 (each 8 under). Jobe’s winnings came to $267K, while Couples and Lehman each made $172K.
Perry, who won 11 times on the PGA Tour in his 40s, now has won nine times on the Champions Tour. His game mired in mediocrity over the last couple of years on the sunsetters tour, he got hot here, attributing some of his good fortune to a switch to an Argolf putter on the eve of the tournament.
“Next thing you know, I’m making putts,” he said. “And it’s like I’m a kid again out there. I have been driving the ball beautifully all year . . . I just couldn’t get the ball in the hole.”
It was a 25-foot putt to save par on No. 15, Perry was convinced, that won him the tournament.
“By far,” he said. “I putt it right in there, hit it with the correct speed . . . that gave me the confidence to get it done the last three holes.”
The putt on 15 maintained Perry’s three-stroke lead on Triplett. With three holes to go, he could play a conservative hand all the way to the win, making him only the sixth repeat winner in tournament history, dating back to 1894. With par as his goal, it forced Triplett, typically 20 yards shorter off the tee, to be aggressive. Triplett couldn’t muster that kind of forceful challenge.
“He’s the kind of tough guy you don’t really like to play,” said an admiring Perry. “Because he is never out of the hole. Always down the middle. On the green. A world class chipper and putter. I knew I was going to have my hands full.”
The Open trophy, with winners’ names spread over three centuries, now has Perry’s name stamped on it twice.
“I am very proud of both of ’em,” said Perry. “That’s as high as it gets for me on my résumé . . . so many great names. A lot of great champions on this trophy, to be a two-time winner, that’s pretty special.”Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeKPD.