Perez gets tip from Tiger, goes low on South Course

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 24, 2014, 2:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Already this week there has been much ink spilt on Tiger Woods’ chase for a record-setting nine wins at Torrey Pines, even though, if you ask him, he already thinks he's locked up No. 9 – at the 1992 Junior Worlds here.

Really, though, Woods could have already reached double-digit Ws at this municipal course along the Pacific Bluffs.

The guy who denied him? Pat Perez, who blew away Woods by eight shots on his way to winning the Junior Worlds in ’93.

And, make no mistake, Tiger has been hearing about it ever since.

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“Best day of my life,” Perez said, smiling.

Thursday must have been another banner day, because the San Diego native opened with a bogey-free 67 to top Woods by five and, more importantly, sit just three shots off the first-round lead in the Farmers Insurance Open.

The player least surprised by Perez’s round? None other than Woods.

“He grew up here,” he said afterward. “This was his home course – he’s played it more times than anybody.”

Indeed, this event has always been Perez’s fifth major. He is a San Diego kid, he attended Torrey Pines High School, and he used to work various, low-paying jobs at this world-class municipal course. His father, Tony, still announces players on the first tee.

Even now, Perez, 37, looks out on the practice tee and figures he has logged thousands of miles on the range picker. As a kid, he cleaned carts and shuttled players back and forth from the range in the old San Diego Opens. Each day he rose at 4 a.m. and wouldn’t return home until 11 that night. He couldn’t wait to wake up the next day and do it all over again.

Sometimes, when no one was looking, Perez would pocket the brand-new range balls, which were nicer than any beat-up balatas he was whacking around at the time.

“I’d go home and have this huge bucket of balls,” he recalled. “I never hit them. Never played them. I just, you know, stared at them. I just thought that’s got to be the greatest job in the world.”

Lately, though, it’s proven to be an arduous job for Perez. He says he’s “finally got my game in order” after a switch late last year to instructor Joe Mayo. The biggest revelation during their 2 1/2 months together has been teaching Perez how to better understand ball launch.

Perhaps that information will be the impetus he needs to fulfill what had been a very promising junior career.

In 1993, he won the Junior Worlds here over Woods – “I think that was the last time I beat him, really” – and followed up that triumph with a victory two weeks later at the Maxfli PGA Junior at Pinehurst. After receiving a college scholarship to Arizona State, he helped the Sun Devils win the NCAA title in ’96.

Though he used to “kill it all the time” on Torrey Pines’ South Course, success has proved elusive here since the course’s re-do in advance of the 2008 U.S. Open – a familiar refrain, indeed, for San Diegoans.

“Torrey Pines South is on a beautiful piece of land,” said another local boy, Charley Hoffman, “and that’s where I’m going to leave it.”

In 11 career starts at this event, Perez has finished in the top 10 only twice. His opening 67 here on the more difficult South Course was his best score since a second-round 63 in 2004.

“It feels awesome,” he said.

So does topping his good buddy Woods, whom he has known since age 8 and, like everyone else, has been on the receiving end of far too many beatdowns.

Throughout the years the two players have remained close, and Woods even sent Perez a text on Thursday morning. It was a swing thought; something borrowed from Hogan that he thought might help Perez.

“It’s just little stuff like that,” Perez said. “He’s great.”

Still, he takes immense pleasure in needling Woods about that junior event some 21 years ago.

“I’ll never let it go because everybody else doesn’t have anything on him as far as golf,” Perez said. “He’s beat everybody for so many years, I’ve got to hold onto that. It hurts him. I tell you, it hurts him.”

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.