For most of his PGA Tour career, Pat Perez was an afterthought.
Just another guy out there with his name on his bag, struggling and fighting a well-documented temper.
Back in 2011, Rick Lipsey from Golf.com called Perez a “temper tantrum machine” and also declared him “an embarrassment to the PGA Tour.”
Pretty harsh words but when you look back at Perez’ behavior, he was every bit the hot-head, every bit the guy most likely to blow up at any given time.
Time and events have a way of changing people and perhaps that’s what happened to Pat Perez.
His career was in doubt back in 2015-2016. He missed most of the season due to shoulder surgery. Shoulder surgery is the last thing any golfer wants to contemplate especially a guy headed for the big Four-Oh, as in age 40.
Perez came to the PGA Tour with great promise and potential. He managed one career victory, the 2009 Bob Hope. Looked every bit the one-win wonder.
Then came the 2017 season. He prevailed at Mayacoba, an opposite field event. Shot 21-under for his second win. At age 41, he sounded pretty grateful. It looked like “The Volcano” had cooled off, maybe even gone dormant.
It turned out to be a magical season for Perez. He made it into the playoffs, easily, then for the first time at age 41, played his way to the Tour Championship. It was the icing on a career year that saw him finish 15th in FedEx Cup points with earnings in excess of $4.36 million. Pretty good for a 41-year-old guy who wants nothing to do with gym workouts.
Nothing like a magical season to turn off a “temper tantrum machine.”
The Pat Perez roll didn’t end at East Lake either.
The Dormant Volcano traveled to the other side of the world this past week and took on a bunch of young hotshots at the CIMB Classic.
Justin Thomas was looking for a three-peat. Xander Schauffele had a tractor-trailer packed with momentum.
Yeah, there was also that Matsuyama guy, who wanted to redeem himself from his lousy showing in the playoffs.
The TPC Kuala Lumpur is one of those “you better go low” tracks. Perez knew it, didn’t waste anytime with rounds of 66-65-64 that put him 21-under par and totally in control going into the final round.
The birdie barrage for most of the field came to an end over the final 18. Perez figured he needed to shoot 66 but 69 got it done. Twenty-four under was good for a four-shot win over Keegan Bradley. He beat Schauffele by seven, Matsuyama by eight and defending champion Thomas by a whopping 13. A good week’s work no matter how you look at it. He also collected $1.26 million for the win, his biggest single paycheck, ever.
It’s a new world for Perez and he readily admits he’s changed.
“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 will be the first to admit the surgery and missed time changed his attitude and perspective.
But there are other parts of his persona that won’t change.
One place you won’t find him is the gym.
“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.”