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QUICK TAKE: Perez Looms As Unlikely Open Contender

Pat Perez (Paul Childs, Resuters)

CARNOUSTIE, SCOTLAND – Pat Perez knows his career record in major championships.

“Terrible,” Perez said.

In 24 previous major championships, a tie for sixth at the PGA Championship back in 2005 is the highlight, if you can call it that.

“Didn’t even break the top five,” Perez said.

So how is it the 42-year-old finds himself one stroke off the lead midway through the Open Championship at Carnoustie?

He likes the place. He may even love the place but Perez isn’t the type to gush. He’ll vent but gushing isn’t his style.

“There’s something about this place that I think is fantastic. It’s hard enough that I don’t feel like I have to hit perfect shots. That’s the best,” Perez said. “Greens, you can kind of miss a shot, and it won’t run off and go off the green 40 yards. You’re still kind of on the green. You can putt. You can have a 60-footer and actually think about making it because of the speed. It’s not something running it 15 on the (Stimpmeter).

“So there’s so many things I’ve learned over the years being here. I played it enough times now, I know where I’m going. I played all the wind. But once again, the setup is great. When I get on the green, I feel like I can make them.”

Were it not for a bogey on the 18th hole Friday, Perez would have a share of the lead with Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner. But he committed the cardinal sin of hitting his tee shot in one of Carnoustie’s pits of misery and was forced to play sideways back to the fairway, dulling the shine on his second-round 68 just a bit.

It didn’t dull his enthusiasm for the place. He’s similar to Tiger Woods in that he’s a 42-year-old player returning from serious surgery, in Perez’s case a shoulder operation that threatened his career. It’s been almost two years since he returned and it’s been the best stretch of his career.

Now this.

“The best part for me is no one thinks that I can win. For me, that makes it easier to play. I don’t have any pressure,” Perez said.

“I’m not Rory and Tiger and these guys that have won so many times, and they have the pressure of winning more of them. I would like to – I’d like to do well. If I win, that would be – you know, that would be amazing. But I’d like to do well.

“I’d like to stay steady for 36 more holes and play well, make some putts, and if I happen to be there somewhat near the end, that would be incredible.”

And imagine the Claret Jug stories Perez could tell a year from now.


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