With every contender in full retreat on the back nine, the 47-year-old Perry surged ahead with pars and one timely birdie, coasting home to a 3-under 69 and a two-shot victory that could not have come at a better time.
He became the oldest winner at the tournament Jack Nicklaus built, and as he walked off the green to warm handshake from the tournament host, Perry soon was surrounded by his wife and three children. It was the first time in his two decades on the PGA Tour all of them had been at a tournament he won.
Bigger still was his answer to U.S. captain Paul Azinger's statement earlier in the week, that anyone making his Ryder Cup team would almost certainly have to win on tour this year.
Perry, who squandered two chances in the previous three weeks, delivered his best golf of the year.
He finished at 8-under 280, the highest winning score at the Memorial in 23 years. Perry earned $1.08 million for his 10th career victory, which translates to 1,080 points toward the Ryder Cup, moving him up to No. 5 in the standings.
The Ryder Cup will be held at Valhalla in his native Kentucky, and Perry is so desperate to make the team that he won't even bother qualifying for the U.S. Open. He does not like Torrey Pines, and figures he should devote his energy to tournaments where he has a better chance of earning points, such as Memphis next week and Hartford the week after the U.S. Open.
"When he (Azinger) said in the paper that you're probably going to have to win a tournament to get on his team, that changed my thinking," Perry said. "I'm glad I saw it."
Third-round leader Mathew Goggin lost his three-shot advantage in three holes and stumbled home to a 74, tied for second with former Masters champion Mike Weir, Justin Rose and Jerry Kelly, all of whom closed with a 71.
All of them had their chances until dropping shots somewhere along the back nine.
Perry took the lead with a birdie on the ninth hole and never gave it up. He effectively secured victory with a 5-wood into 12 feet on the par-5 15th hole, and while he had to settle for a two-putt birdie, it gave him a three-shot lead with three holes remaining.
"I hadn't seen you all week," he told Nicklaus walking off the 18th green. "It's nice to see you here."