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Perez continues career resurgence with CIMB win

By Will GrayOctober 15, 2017, 1:24 pm

Staked to a four-shot lead and still with one round to go at the CIMB Classic, Pat Perez took stock of the confluence of factors that had brought him to the precipice of his third career win.

"I guess I'm a lot different than I was 10 years ago, for sure. I can't really explain it," Perez told reporters. "I've been working hard on a lot of things, and it's all kind of come together now."

One day and one trophy later, Perez had the tangible confirmation that it had in fact come together, as he held off Keegan Bradley for his second win in less than a year. It's another chapter in the resurgence of veteran who continues to defy what the second half of a career arc is supposed to look like.

It was only a year ago that Perez showed up to Malaysia full of doubt. He was seven years removed from his lone PGA Tour win, eight months removed from his last Tour start and six months removed from shoulder surgery that sidelined him for the summer of 2016.

At age 40, Perez had accepted a sponsor invite to play in Kuala Lumpur simply with the hopes of getting his season on track. His goal was simply to keep his card as he embarked on a new campaign equipped with a major medical extension.

But he played well, finishing T-33, and two starts later captured the OHL Classic at Mayakoba to spark a career season that was capped by his first-ever trip to the Tour Championship.

"I really can't believe what's gone on basically really a year from this tournament last year," Perez said. "But if they hadn't given me the spot (at CIMB), the funny thing is I don't know if I would have started the Tour until January. So all those chain of events might not have happened."

Granted, this isn't how it's supposed to work. Tour players are not supposed to meander through their 30s subsisting year-to-year, only to find their footing after turning the big 4-0. But Perez has always been one of the more unique characters inside the ropes, so perhaps it's only fitting that he has carved a unique path.

CIMB Classic: Articles, photos and videos

The route may have been circuitous, but the destination is undeniable. After a four-shot romp in Malaysia, Perez is knocking on the top 20 in the world rankings and boasts a resume that could rival nearly any other player over the last 12 months.

"I played well enough to win this week, but Pat's playing exceptionally," said runner-up Keegan Bradley. "I mean, the last two days, every time I made a birdie, he did, too."

Part of Perez's resurgence is rooted in his desire to rebound from the labrum tear that sidelined him last year. But he also has some extra motivation on the equipment front which he has used to fuel his ascent to largely unprecedented heights.

In the wake of his win Sunday, Perez explained that he was "dropped" by Callaway last year before signing with PXG, although he offered a more colorful recount of the situation earlier this year.

"I loved those irons, but I couldn't wait to put something else in the bag and then shove it up Callaway's ass," Perez told shortly his win at Mayakoba. "It was such a motivator. All I could think was, 'I am going to bury these people and nothing is going to stop me.'"

Little even slowed Perez last season, as he added a runner-up finish at the Wells Fargo Championship to his win in Mexico. He also tied for third in Maui and finished T-4 in his hometown event at the Farmers Insurance Open. What may have seemed like a one-off spike in results quickly turned into a season-long uptick.

As his journey came full circle with his return to Malaysia, Perez feasted on the seashore paspalum greens at TPC Kuala Lumpur. They're the same fickle surfaces he tamed last year in Mexico, and this week he rolled in 27 birdies to distance himself from the 78-man field.

A candid response is never far away when talking to Perez, who told reporters that his brief off-season consisted of watching the Presidents Cup as well as eating and drinking "a lot." But he clearly didn't lose any form in his two-week break, even after an uncomfortable flight to Asia led him to lower his expectations for the week.

Instead, he's a winner again. In an era where youth is king, Perez has seemingly discovered a way to turn back the clock, and this week in Malaysia he once again showed that there's more than one path to success on (and off) the course.

"I'm not going to change anything. I'm still not going to work out. I'll still have a bad diet, and I'm going to enjoy myself," Perez said. "I'm just taking it one day at a time, I really am. That's all I'm doing. I don't get ahead of myself, I don't look in the past, I'm just kind of doing it."

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After Further Review: Woods wisely keeping things in perspective

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 19, 2018, 3:17 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On Tiger Woods' career comeback ...

Tiger Woods seems to be the only one keeping his comeback in the proper perspective. Asked after his tie for fifth at Bay Hill whether he could ever have envisioned his game being in this shape heading into Augusta, he replied: “If you would have given me this opportunity in December and January, I would have taken it in a heartbeat.” He’s healthy. He’s been in contention. He’s had two realistic chances to win. There’s no box unchecked as he heads to the Masters, and no one, especially not Woods, could have seen that coming a few months ago. – Ryan Lavner

On Tiger carrying momentum into API, Masters ...

Expect Jordan Spieth to leave Austin with the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play trophy next week.

After all, Spieth is seemingly the only top-ranked player who has yet to lift some hardware in the early part of 2018. Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas have all gotten it done, as have Jason Day, Phil Mickelson and most recently Rory McIlroy.

Throw in the sudden resurgence of Tiger Woods, and with two more weeks until the Masters there seem to be more azalea-laden storylines than ever before.

A Spieth victory in Austin would certainly add fuel to that fire, but even if he comes up short the 2015 champ will certainly be a focus of attention in a few short weeks when the golf world descends upon Magnolia Lane with no shortage of players able to point to a recent victory as proof that they’re in prime position to don a green jacket. – Will Gray

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Davies not giving up on win, HOF after close call

By Randall MellMarch 19, 2018, 3:06 am

PHOENIX – Laura Davies knows the odds are long now, but she won’t let go of that dream of making the LPGA Hall of Fame.

At 54, she was emboldened by her weekend run at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup. She tied for second, five shots behind Inbee Park.

“The more I get up there, I might have a chance of winning again,” Davies said. “I'm not saying I will ever win, but today was close. Maybe one day I can go closer.”

Davies is a World Golf Hall of Famer, but she has been sitting just outside the qualification standard needed to get into the LPGA Hall of Fame for a long time. She needs 27 points, but she has been stuck on 25 since her last victory in 2001. A regular tour title is worth one point, a major championship is worth two points.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Over her career, she has won 20 LPGA titles, four of them major championships. She was the tour’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996. She probably would have locked up Hall of Fame status if she hadn’t been so loyal to the Ladies European Tour, where she won 45 titles.

Though Davies didn’t win Sunday in Phoenix, there was more than consolation in her run into contention.

“Now people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.

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Davies impresses, but there's no catching Park

By Randall MellMarch 19, 2018, 2:40 am

PHOENIX – Inbee Park won the tournament.

Laura Davies won the day.

It was a fitting script for the Bank of Hope Founders Cup on Sunday, where nostalgia stirs the desert air in such a special way.

Two of the game’s all-time best, LPGA Hall of Famer Inbee Park and World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies, put on a show with the tour’s three living founders applauding them in the end.

Park and Davies made an event all about honoring the tour’s past while investing in its future something to savor in the moment. Founders Marilynn Smith, Shirley Spork and Marlene Hagge Vossler cheered them both.

For Park, there was meaningful affirmation in her 18th LPGA title.

In seven months away from the LPGA, healing up a bad back, Park confessed she wondered if she should retire. This was just her second start back. She won feeling no lingering effects from her injury.

“I was trying to figure out if I was still good enough to win,” Park said of her long break back home in South Korea. “This proved to me I can win and play some pain-free golf.”

At 54, Davies kept peeling away the years Sunday, one sweet swing after another. She did so after shaking some serious nerves hitting her first tee shot.

“It’s about as nervous as I’ve ever felt,” Davies said. “I swear I nearly shanked it.”

Davies has won 45 Ladies European Tour events and 20 LPGA titles, but she was almost 17 years removed from her last LPGA title. Still, she reached back to those times when she used to rule the game and chipped in for eagle at the second hole to steady herself.

“It calmed me down, and I really enjoyed the day,” Davies said.

With birdies at the ninth and 10th holes, Davies pulled from three shots down at day’s start to within one of Park, sending a buzz through all the fans who came out to root for the popular Englishwoman.

“People were loving it,” said Tanya Paterson, Davies’ caddie. “We kept hearing, `Laura, we love you.’ It was special for Laura, showing she can still compete.”

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Davies relished giving all the young players today, who never saw how dominant she once was, some flashes from her great past.

“Yesterday, after I had that 63, a lot of the younger girls came up and said, `Oh, great playing today,”’ Davies said. “It was nice, I suppose, to have that. I still am a decent player, and I actually used to be really good at it. Maybe that did give them a glimpse into what it used to be like.”

She also relished showing certain fans something.

“Now, people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.

Davies was the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996, when she won two of her four major championships. She was emboldened by the way she stood up to Sunday pressure again.

In the end, though, there was no catching Park, who continues to amaze with her ability to win coming back from long breaks after injuries.

Park, 29, comes back yet again looking like the player who reigned at world No. 1 for 92 weeks, won three consecutive major championships in 2013 and won the Olympic gold medal two years ago.

“The reason that I am competing and playing is because I want to win and because I want to contend in golf tournaments,” Park said.

After Davies and Marina Alex mounted runs to move within one shot, Park pulled away, closing ferociously. She made four birdies in a row starting at the 12th and won by five shots. Her famed putting stroke heated up, reminding today’s players how nobody can demoralize a field more with a flat stick.

“I just felt like nothing has dropped on the front nine,” Park said. “I was just thinking to myself, `They have to drop at some point.’ And they just started dropping, dropping, dropping.”

Yet again, Park showed her ability to win after long breaks.

In Rio de Janeiro two years ago, Park the Olympic gold medal in her first start back after missing two months because of a ligament injury in her left thumb. She took eight months off after Rio and came back to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship last year, in just her second start upon returning.

“I'm really happy to have a win early in the season,” Park said. “That just takes so much pressure off me.”

And puts it on the rest of the tour if she takes her best form to the year’s first major at the ANA Inspiration in two weeks.



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Rose: 'Never' has Rory putted as well as Bay Hill

By Ryan LavnerMarch 19, 2018, 1:20 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – Justin Rose didn’t need to ponder the question for very long.

The last time Rory McIlroy putted that well was, well …?

“Never,” Rose said with a chuckle. “Ryder Cup? He always makes it look easy when he’s playing well.”

And the Englishman did well just to try and keep pace.

After playing his first six holes in 4 over par, Rose battled not just to make the cut but to contend. He closed with consecutive rounds of 67, finishing in solo third, four shots back of McIlroy at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Rose said this weekend was the best he’s struck the ball all year. He just didn’t do enough to overtake McIlroy, who finished the week ranked first in strokes gained-putting and closed with a bogey-free 64.

“Rory just played incredible golf, and it’s great to see world-class players do that,” Rose said. “It’s not great to see him make putts because he was making them against me, but when he is, he’s incredibly hard to beat. So it was fun to watch him play.”