ATLANTA | It took Pat Perez only 16 years to play in the Tour Championship so it’s understandable that the PGA Tour’s free spirit intends to enjoy every minute of his time at East Lake Golf Club.
“It’s awesome to be here,” Perez said Wednesday.
What’s not to like?
Reaching the Tour Championship gives everyone in the field a shot at the $10 million FedEx Cup bonus though Perez is realistic enough to know that a lot of things have to happen for him to win from 11th place in the standings, where he starts this week.
“For me it’s like winning the Powerball because all the top guys would have to play bad, which they haven’t done all year so for them to all do it at once and me win, it’s about the same odds as the Powerball,” Perez said.
Does Perez play the lottery?
“No, no chance,” he said. “I bought a can of chew instead, got more enjoyment out of that.”
There is also the guaranteed money that comes in a no-cut event with only 15 twosomes teeing it up with a first prize of $1.5 million.
And, if those weren’t enough perks, the Tour Championship comes with invitations to the four majors next year, the Players Championship and the World Golf Championship events.
Not bad for a guy coming off shoulder surgery last fall and uncertain where he’d play and how well he would play. Perez won the OHL Classic in his first post-surgery start and has had the best season of his career.
“When I get home next week and I kind of reflect on things I need to improve and this and that, I’ll be very proud of what I’ve done this year because these guys are so good,” Perez said. “They hit it a mile past me, they’ve got shorter clubs (for approach shots) on every hole and they’re just really good. The fact that I kind of kept up with them this year has been amazing to me.”
Perez, 41, breaks the PGA Tour mold in many ways. He’s outspoken. He wears his hair long. He’s not tall and thin. He doesn’t work out and, in his words, he “just kind of waddles around” the golf course.
He surrenders 50 yards off the tee to the longest hitters and he’s learned to accept it. If it means he can’t contend at a place like Erin Hills, Perez moves on. But when he’s on as he has been for the past year, Perez is persistent and he’s quietly been among the top players all year.
Life is good and Perez expects it to get better.
“I’m very at ease with life right now. I can’t even believe I’m already thinking about like the Champions Tour and things like that coming up in nine years,” he said.
“I can’t wait to get there. Cart, practice rounds, a couple beers maybe, nightlife, three-day golf. I can’t wait for that kind of stuff. Fifteen tournaments. I mean, I’m already ready.”
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