Tommy Bolt says Back Off Pat
'All of us are human,' said Bolt, who achieved notoriety for throwing golf clubs when they misbehaved. (Most people thought it was actually Bolt who was acting up.)
They called him 'Terrible Tommy.' And here he was, with his gravel voice, on the other end of the line from his Florida home two days before the start of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
The subject was 'Petulant Pat.'
They had been talking and writing about Perez ever since he had blazed his way to a 61 in the second round of the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic last week. But they were focused more on Perez' meltdown in the final round of last year's AT&T when he acted like, well, Tommy Bolt while losing a final round lead and the tournament to Matt Gogel. Terrible Tommy knows how this works.
'Every one of 'em's thrown a club at one time or another,' Bolt said of today's young guns. He added that he wasn't so sure it was fair to single out Perez as today's smoking young gun.
But sooner or later, Bolt said, Perez was going to have to come face to face with the demon that is his temper. 'You have to work,' Terrible Tommy said, 'on controlling your emotions.'
Perez' people insist that's just what he has been doing so ever since last year's AT&T Pebble. No anger management classes. No therapy or sessions with golf shrinks. Just a lot of long talks with the people who are close to him. 'Pat will always play with emotion,' says Ralph Cross, his agent and confidante. 'But he has learned the great lesson.'
This, of course, remains to be seen. Pat Perez will not make one swing this week without a camera present ready to reproduce an image, moving and/or still, of his bile if it rises to a toxic level. Perez knows this. Cross knows this. Bolt knows it better than anybody.
'I've seen Tiger Woods throw clubs,' Bolt said. 'He just never got this kind of publicity.'
It's kind of surprising that in a celebrity culture that currently worships at the altar of fake reality television, somebody hasn't tried to capitalize on Perez volatility by proposing a series of commercial endorsements built around anger management.
Cross said no such offer has come. And he warned the hucksters against it. 'Don't even call,' he said.
The idea in the Perez camp is to get everybody's attention back to the golf. 'Pat's got some low numbers in his bag,' Cross says. Lots of agents say these kinds of things about their players. But recent stats support Cross.
Perez made 36 birdies in 90 holes at the Hope last week. Only Tom Kite (37) has ever made more in a Tour event. During the Thursday 61, Perez was 10 under par after 11 holes with no eagles.
The strategy this week for Pat Perez is to fly beneath radar. He is not granting interviews. And he says once this tournament is over he will never again talk about last year's eruption at Pebble Beach.
Jack Nicklaus was once 'fat.' George Foreman was once 'surly.' These are just two examples of great athletes who re-invented themselves, found a second act to their careers and moved on to bigger and better things.
Colin Montgomerie wasn't so lucky. O.J. Simpson's reputation is damaged beyond repair.
The point here is this: The court of public opinion is a capricious place to try your case. The jury is still out on 26-year-old Pat Perez. 'Pat wants to be known for his ability to play golf,' Cross said.
There is still time for that to happen.
Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix
KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.
The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.
Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.
Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.
Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.
Rahm (62) fires career low round
The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:
Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)
What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.
Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.
Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.
Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.
Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.
Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.
Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm
Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder
Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.
Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.
"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."
Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.
Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.
"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."
Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn
There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.
Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.
Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.
Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.
The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.