Kuala Lumpur, 15 October, 2017: Just a year ago, Pat Perez was playing on the PGA TOUR on a medical exemption after a lengthy break for a shoulder surgery. In the period since finishing T33 at the CIMB Classic 2016, the 41 year old American has collected two PGA TOUR victories – one in Mexico. As the final putt dropped in, securing a four stroke victory, Perez (-24) extended his arms for a warm hug with his long time caddie Mike Hartford.
The CIMB Classic this week has been an exercise in assertion for the 31st ranked Perez, who was coming off his best season on the circuit. Besides winning the OHL Classic in Mayakoba, Perez ended T2 in the Wells Fargo Championship and T3 in the SBS Tournament of Champions.
Most impressively, in the season ending FedexCup events, Perez finished no worse than 16th place. He was T6 in Dell Technologies, T12 in the BMW event and then 16th in the Tour Championship, where he was the oldest competitor in the 30-man elite field.
In an impressive performance this week Perez racked up scores of 66-65-64-69 for a four stroke victory over Keegan Bradley. The runner up made a memorable come from behind effort to jump ahead of Xander Schauffele and Sung Kang, both men in the final group with Perez.
Perez ensured victory with a forceful effort on the front nine – collecting four birdies against only his third bogey of the week to retain a stranglehold on the lead. Meanwhile, neither Schauffele nor Kang were able to make a final lunge, making 72 and 71 respectively to end the week in T3.
Bradley healed some of the wounds from missing the cut at the Safeway Open with a spotless 67 to claim second place.
At the top of the leaderboard, Perez decided to play out a safe back nine, often recovering from difficult positions, making ten straight pars to start the 2018 season with a good win.
“I”m not gonna change anything,” Perez told Golf Channel, just after his final putt on the 18th green. “I’m still not gonna work out. I’m still gonna have a bad diet. I’m going to enjoy myself.”
A new generation of young golfers may be following a regimen of training and diet, but consistency has been the mantra for Perez. He has collected at least a top 25 finish in his last 26 starts. That is nothing to sneer at for a golf player in his twentieth season as a professional.
“I knew I had to stay on the gas here, because guys are playing so good you can go low any day,” Perez added. “I was expecting someone to shoot 63 or something like that. I’m a different person than I was 17 years ago. Even, like five years ago. So I’m learning how to play the game. I’m learning how to play my own game and stay within myself and that kind of stuff and, like you said, I’m a late bloomer.”
His expectation of a 63 wasn’t too far off the mark. Cameron Smith fired nine birdies in a brilliant 64 that catapulted him into T5 with Hideki Matsuyama. The Japanese was eager to push ahead but was forced to stay content with a 71. The fact that they were eight behind Perez underlines the kind of dominance enjoyed by the winner this week.
Paul Casey with a 65, Danny Lee and Lucas Glover with matching scores of 68 ended the week in T7. Behind them at -13 were Anirban Lahiri (71), Peter Uihlein (69) and Rafa Cabrera Bello (69), bringing the rear end of the top 10.