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Golf: Valhalla heroes conquer heartache, brain surgery

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Kenny Perry is haunted by losing a major at Valhalla. J.B. Holmes helped the United States to a Ryder Cup triumph at the course in 2008, then was tested by brain surgery.

But both Kentucky heroes will tee off Thursday in the 96th PGA Championship seeking an unlikely home-state victory, although Holmes won his first title since 2011 brain surgery this season at Charlotte while Perry, who turns 54 Sunday, has won twice on the Champions Tour this year.

"That would be a Cinderella story, to be competitive on your birthday at 54," Perry said. "I have thought about it, but it's dreamland really."

The course where Tiger Woods beat Bob May in a playoff for the 2000 PGA Championship and the third leg of the "Tiger Slam" of four major wins in a row saw its first major four years earlier when Perry lost to Mark Brooks in a PGA Championship playoff.

Perry watched his rival finish from the television commentary booth, not feeling the need to prepare for the playoff eventually forced upon him.

"It took me a year, year and a half, to get over that loss," Perry said. "It taught me a lot about finishing and not getting ahead of yourself. It made me grow a little bit."

In 2009, Perry led the Masters by two strokes with two holes to play but a bogey-bogey finish set up a playoff and he lost to Argentina's Angel Cabrera.

"They were two blows in my career," Perry said. "You can either fold up and kick the dog, feel sorry about yourself, or go on.

"Once I got through it, the loss at the Masters really didn't bother me that bad. I won two weeks later at Hartford. I guess it just made me tougher more than anything.

"I've had way more ups than I've had downs and not a lot of guys can really say that playing golf."

- 'It's just a game' -

Holmes had malformations in the brain that led to a 2011 operation that sidelined him for six months.

"When you go through anything like that, it's going to change you," Holmes said. "I've tried to really focus on more just appreciating the opportunities I have and if you have a bad week or miss the cut, doesn't really matter. It's just a golf game.

"It's not always easy to do. I still get frustrated with myself sometimes and not always react the way I would like to. But I'm working on it and doing the best I can and I've improved on it and it's definitely helped me a whole lot this year."

Being in contention would also be a dream come true for Holmes.

"It would be great. That's always the goal, to be able to get in contention in majors, and hopefully win," he said. "So to be able to do it in a special place like this, that would be awesome."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140805/golf-valhalla-heroes-conquer-heartache-brain-surgery