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The Tour’s Thriving Survivor

by Ron Green Jr. - November 13, 2017

Pat Perez is having the time of his life and given his damn-the-torpedoes mantra, that’s saying something.

Perez is living proof that not every professional golfer is obsessed with his gym time, his diet and planning every hour down to the minute. He’s not afraid to have a drink or three, order a fat steak and let his hair grow like Wayne and Garth back in the day.

He can see his 42nd birthday from here, has a rebuilt shoulder that nearly cost him his career and a second chapter in a 17-year PGA Tour journey that’s already better in many ways than the first 15 years. Perez can be irreverent, hot-tempered and outspoken, characteristics that fit him like his flat bill but occasionally stand out on the PGA Tour like a mustard stain on a wedding dress.

Perez is a refreshing throwback in many ways. There was a time when Tour life didn’t end after every post-round practice or gym session and when medium-length hitters could win playing to their strengths rather than being marginalized by skinny guys who hit it 320 without swinging full throttle.

Perez is not afraid to say what he thinks and do what he wants. He knows his golf game, accepts what he can’t do and focuses on the things he can do well. He doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone anymore.

He can just be Pat Perez.

A year ago, Perez showed up at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba having made just two starts since returning from surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder. It was a serious enough operation that there was no guarantee Perez could regain the form that made him a good but not great player for a decade and a half.

As it turns out, Perez is better than ever.

His victory at Mayakoba last year was the second in his career and it came 182 events after his other win. Flash forward to Malaysia last month and Perez won again, and he returned to Mayakoba for his title defense last week leading the FedEx Cup points race.

For a guy who has been around the world a few times, Perez has never been where he is now in his life and his career.

“It’s definitely the best place ever,” Perez said, talking not about the gorgeous setting at Mayakoba but about the personal path that led him inside the top 20 in the world ranking just 13 months after he was ranked 333rd.

The Perez story could have gone a different direction. He could have come back and found something missing. Maybe his short game couldn’t carry him as it has for so many years. Maybe the distance he surrenders off the tee was too much. Maybe he wouldn’t be as good as he had been before.

That, it turns out, can be someone else’s story.

“I don’t know if I have a different outlook from most people but I’m a survivor,” Perez said. “I worked at a public range growing up through high school. When I got into college, I drove a guy around for extra money. I’ve always survived.

“I’ve always had this thing where I’m going to make it. Like a lot of guys, you do what you do to get by and I’ve always had a never-die attitude. I’m not going to let anyone take anything from me. I’ve earned everything I’ve gotten. That’s something I can hold my head high on.”

There’s plenty to be said for scrapping, for making something more out of something less. Some golfers seem born to the game. If you’re old enough to remember how Tom Weiskopf looked addressing a shot, you understand. Watch Rory McIlroy today and it’s clear that he was born with an ability few have.

Perez came at it differently.

“For me, I didn’t know if I was that good,” Perez said. “You’re always trying to prove to somebody else what you can do. Now I don’t worry about that. I don’t have to prove anything to anybody. I have a great wife and a great family. I worry about them. My caddie and coach are in my group. I worry about that. Not outside influences.

“I wish I had that 17 years ago when I started.”

Think about this: Pat Perez on next year’s U.S. Ryder Cup team.

He’d kill it in the team room, no doubt. And because it’s something he’s always watched from the outside, imagining what it would be like to be on the inside, captain Jim Furyk could have a secret weapon in Perez.

That’s a long way off still. Perez won the CIMB Classic and finished T5 in the CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges but those didn’t come with Ryder Cup points. The way the system works, Perez needs a big year in 2018 but he’s not alone there.

“We’ll see what happens,” Perez said. “It would be awesome. To make the team at 42 and actually make the team – I think that’s amazing. That would be kind of like the last check mark on my list – to play on a team.

“I know I would be a helluva teammate.”

Reproduced with kind permission of Global Golf Post - Subscribe now for free


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