LAHAINA, HAWAII – For Pat Perez, nothing can ruin his Maui mood.
“The fact I’m here is like a miracle. It really is,” Perez said Thursday after shooting a 4-under par 69 in the opening round of the SBS Tournament of Champions at Kapalua’s Plantation Course.
As Perez talked, a soft rain shower dampened his long hair that spilled out from beneath his cap. It didn’t matter.
Less than 10 months ago, Perez underwent surgery for a torn labrum in his left shoulder. At age 40, Perez understood the potential impact on his PGA Tour career, in which he kept his playing privileges for 15 consecutive years though he had only one Tour win.
Shoulder surgery wasn’t a desperate option. It was Perez’s only option.
“It sucked when it happened. I went to the doctor and he said there’s only one way to fix it and that’s fix it. What am I going to do now? Sit out seven months? Am I done? Winning is not in the question,” Perez said.
But eight months after the shoulder surgery, Perez won the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in his just third start. He had played 378 PGA Tour events with one win – the 2009 Bob Hope Classic – and, back from the brink, he won again.
It got him in the 32-player field here at Kapalua, earned him a Masters invitation and sets him up on Tour through the 2018-19 season.
“I wouldn’t be able to draw up that type of year. The misery, the miserableness and the down all the way to the ultimate which was the winner’s circle. I don’t even know if it’s happened. Has it happened?” Perez said. “Who’s done it?”
Well, Ben Hogan had a nice comeback story but this is about Perez, who tends to live life and play golf at full throttle. He isn’t afraid to say what he thinks.
What sustained him in the idle weeks while waiting for his shoulder to heal?
“A lot of booze. A lot of food. A lot of everything,” Perez said. “Not from depression, just nothing else to do.”
Perez had the surgery on March 8 and on July 15 he hit his first post-surgery shot – a short pitch, maybe 10 yards. It didn’t hurt. A week later, he hit a couple more shots, maybe 30 yards in length. Still no pain.
Now he’s in Maui, starting what feels like a fresh chapter a career that has been good but not great. There’s still time, though.
“Everyone says do you wish you’d won more. Who doesn’t?” Perez said.
“There’s also guys who haven’t kept their job as long as me. When I get done with my status, if I don’t win again, I’m going to have 19 years straight. There aren’t a lot of guys that can say that. When you manage to keep your job 16 times in a row, that’s pretty good.”