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 Golf.com 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."

Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

"He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

"I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

"From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

"And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

"There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."

Move over Lydia, a new Ko is coming to LPGA

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 5:11 pm

Another gifted young South Korean will be joining the LPGA ranks next year.

Jin Young Ko, the Korean LPGA Tour star, informed the American-based LPGA on Sunday night that she will be taking up membership next year. Ko earned the right by winning the LPGA’s KEB Hana Bank Championship as a nonmember in South Korea in October.

Ko, 22, no relation to Lydia Ko, first burst on to the international spotlight with her run into contention at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry two years ago. She led there through 54 holes, with Inbee Park overtaking her in the final round to win.

With 10 KLPGA Tour titles, three in each of the last two seasons, Ko has risen to No. 19 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

Ko told GolfChannel.com Sunday afternoon that she was struggling over the decision, with a Monday deadline looming.

“It’s a difficult decision to leave home,” Ko said after the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, when she was still undecided. “The travelling far away, on my own, the loneliness, that’s what is difficult.”

Ko will be the favorite to win the LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award next year. South Koreans have won that award the last three years. Sung Hyun Park won it this year, In Gee Chun last year and Sei Young Kim in 2015. South Korean-born players have won the last four, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko winning it in 2014. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.

Ko released this statement through the LPGA on Wednesday: 

"It has been my dream since I was young to play on the LPGA Tour and I look forward to testing myself against the best players on a worldwide stage. I know it is going to be tough but making a first win as an LPGA member and winning the Rolex Rookie of the Year award would be two of the biggest goals I would like to achieve next year."

Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

Piller declined an interview request when GolfChannel.com sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

“I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

And that’s a magic word in golf.

There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.


Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery


A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

“The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

“It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

Parity was the story this year.

Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

“I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.