Pat Perez returned to winning form in Malaysia, holding on to win the CIMB Classic.
Pat Perez is one of golf’s most colorful characters. At 41 years old, he’s not afraid to let his true self shine through, even if it sometimes keeps the network production crews working overtime on the dump button. While the FCC might not love it, Perez couldn’t be happier to still be competing at the highest level, and he added yet another title to his resume at the CIMB Classic.
The final round at TPC Kuala Lumpur wasn’t quite the victory march it looked to be through 54 holes. Although Perez began play on Sunday four strokes clear of Xander Schauffele, he faced his biggest challenge from the surging Keegan Bradley.
Bradley, who hasn’t won since the 2012 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, didn’t card a single bogey since the 18th hole on Friday. After nearly two years of struggling with his putting, Bradley was five-under through 12 on Sunday, putting some pressure on Perez. With six straight pars coming in, though, it proved to be too little, too late.
Perez couldn’t have had much of a better week in Malaysia. After all, in his own words, he was playing there for three very simple reasons.
"“I’ll give you two reasons: Free money and free points. Three [reasons], free [airline] ticket,” he laughed. “I mean, it’s a no-brainer.”“How could I possibly not go?” he said. “I’m not that big-time to act like I’m too good to go.”"
Perez carried confidence from 2016-17 into early season victory
The Arizona State alum will leave Kuala Lumpur with the lion’s share of both the free money and the free points, and it’s safe to say the flight home will be pretty comfortable, as well. Of course, there’s a fourth reason Perez played this week, and it had a lot to do with the win.
Last year, when Perez was rehabilitating from shoulder surgery that cost him most of the 2015-16 season, he received a sponsor’s invitation to the CIMB Classic. He hadn’t planned on coming back to golf until the 2017 Sony Open, at the earliest, but he decided to give the fall stop a shot.
He finished tied for 33rd here a year ago, then went to Mexico three weeks later and won. He finished the 2016-17 campaign in 15th place on the FedEx Cup points list, and entered the new season rejuvenated.
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With a second victory in less than 12 months, Perez has gotten the new year off in incredible form. He’s adjusting to life in his 40s, but he knows now, more than ever, that he can compete as long as he stays true to himself.
In an interview with Golf Channel’s Arron Oberholser after the win, Perez was asked about his newfound maturity. He responded with a classic answer.
"“I’m not going to change anything. I’m still not going to work out, I’m still going to have a bad diet, and I’m still going to enjoy myself. You know, I’ve got my group of friends. I’m going to work hard, I’m just taking it a day at the time.”"
It’s a process that is clearly paying off. In a day where the best golfers all seem to be twenty-somethings with a 32-inch waistline, it’s refreshing to see Perez doing things his own way and coming out better for it.
At this rate, look for even bigger things to come for Perez in the year to come.