Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

TOUR NOTEBOOK; Perks Works Hard on Florida Swing

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

TOUR NOTEBOOK; Perks Works Hard on Florida Swing

Article excerpt

Byline: Garry Smits, The Times-Union

MIAMI -- Craig Perks stands on the driving range at the Doral Resort and Spa, pounding balls high into a cloudless South Florida sky. Not one is more than a yard offline. Not one is shorter than 300 yards.

Duplicating the feat inside the ropes at a PGA Tour event has been the tough part of the equation for the 2002 Players Championship winner. Since winning The Players with his improbable and memorable stretch of eagle, birdie, chip-in for par at the Stadium Course, Perks has had only two top-10 finishes and made only 34 of 79 cuts (43 percent).

Perks won $1,080,000 for that victory. It took him 74 more starts -- through last year's Funai Classic at Disney -- to make enough money to surpass that.

The New Zealand native is always optimistic that the Florida Swing, which begins with today's first round of the Ford Championship at Doral, will breathe new life into his game.

"I've never done well on the West Coast Swing," said Perks, who has missed four of five cuts this year and tied for 61st at the FBR Open. "These are the tournaments [the Florida Swing] where I've played my best. I feel very comfortable on these greens and playing in the wind here."

Perks was in contention at The Players the year after he won and tied for 17th. At Doral in 2002, he played in the final group with Tiger Woods and ended up tied for fifth. He also shot under par in three of four rounds at Doral last year.

Perks' problems are easy to target: He's driving the ball crooked (187th on Tour in driving accuracy last year) and not hitting enough greens (147th).

But it's not for lack of effort. Perks puts in long hours on the range and is working out diligently.

"I feel good about the way I'm practicing," he said. "I think my game is headed for better things."

ELITE FIELD TACKLES MONSTER

The Ford Championship at Doral has not had a better field since the 1980s and early-to-mid 1990s, when most of the international stars would make their U. …

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