CIMB champion Perez does it his way
Perez, 41, is having success on a TOUR dominated by youngsters
October 15, 2017
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
Pat Perez cruises to a four-shot victory at CIMB
Pat Perez proved Sunday that, on a PGA TOUR dominated by lithe, young superstars with physiques crafted in the gym and enough clubhead speed to overheat a TrackMan, there is still room for a 41-year-old who prefers late nights with a beer (or a few) over early-morning workouts.
He shot 24-under 264 at this week’s CIMB Classic to win by four shots over Keegan Bradley and finish seven shots ahead of Sung Kang and the reigning Rookie of the Year, Xander Schauffele. Perez started his 17th PGA TOUR season with the third win of his career, and his second in the past 11 months.
“I'm such a different person than I was 17 years ago, even like five years ago,” he said. “I'm learning how to play the game and learning how to play my own game and stay within myself and that kind of stuff. I'm a late bloomer.”
Perez took the 36-hole lead at TPC Kuala Lumpur and never relinquished it. He started Sunday with a four-shot lead and won by that same margin. He shot four consecutive rounds in the 60s (66-65-64-69) and made just three bogeys all week. He hit 62 of 72 greens but said it was the putter that carried him to victory.
“If I didn't putt well I probably would have finished 40th,” he said
Perez is coming off a career-best finish in the FedExCup (15th) and the first TOUR Championship appearance of his career. He’s second in this season’s early FedExCup standings, 56 points behind Safeway Open champion Brendan Steele. Steele followed last week’s win with a 13th-place finish in Malaysia.
Perez, who’s been on the PGA TOUR since 2002, now has two victories in his past 25 starts after winning once in his first 378. He was one of just five players in their 40s to win last season. Compare that to a record-setting 18 victories by players under 25, a group that includes FedExCup champions Justin Thomas (2017) and Jordan Spieth (2015).
Last year’s lengthy layoff after shoulder surgery has inspired his good play, giving him a new perspective on the game. Perez, who won the 1993 Junior Worlds over Tiger Woods, was always known for having tons of talent but also a hot temper.
“It took me a lot longer to probably mature, if you can even use that word for me,” he said.
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He may give up yards off the tee to today’s young stars, but he makes up for it with a strong short game. His winning score this week was just two shots off Thomas’ tournament record.
“It's frustrating because I see these guys, perfect builds, they're tall and they're skinny and they've got all this strength, and then there's me who kind of waddles around,” Perez said at the TOUR Championship. “I don't like working out, I like to sit, kind of do nothing, so it's kind of my own fault, I guess, on the strength.
“But when those guys go, they just keep running, like Justin Thomas. They just have those extra gears that can get them on the par-5s in two. I can't get to the par-5s in two so my short game's got to be sharp.”
This week’s win came a continent away from home, but at a place that is special to him. Last year’s CIMB Classic was Perez’s first start since surgery that March to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder. He’d been dropped by his equipment sponsor and thought his return to the PGA TOUR was still months away. Then the CIMB Classic’s executive director, Todd Rhinehart, called and offered him an invitation. Perez’s wise-cracking ways apparently have international appeal.
A middle-of-the-pack finish (T33) may not have looked impressive on paper, but it was an encouraging return after several months on the sideline, and it set the stage for the best year of Perez’s lengthy career. He finished seventh in his next start, at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, and then won the OHL Classic at Mayakoba. His second win came nearly eight years after his first one, at the 2009 CareerBuilder Challenge
“If he hadn't given me the spot, the funny thing is I don't know if I would have started the TOUR until January,” Perez said Sunday. “So all those chain of events might not have happened. So I can't thank him enough for doing that. I really can't explain it, it's been an amazing 12 months.”
Perez said he starts every season with two goals, to win and qualify for the TOUR Championship. He has the win under his belt. Now he wants to get back to East Lake. He estimates that he’ll need another 800 FedExCup points to accomplish that.
Today’s game emphasizes distance, but Perez ranked 112th in driving distance (290.9 yards) and 130th in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee last season. He was fourth in Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green and 37th in Strokes Gained: Putting. It works for him, and he's going to stick with the forumla that has led to his success.
"I'm not going to change anything," he said. "I'm still not going to work out. I'll still have a bad diet and I'm going to enjoy myself."
Pat Perez is totally stoked after holing out for eagle at the TOUR Championship