Battling a Bad Boy Image


Pat Perez burst onto the world golf scene three years ago with an outburst.
He led by four shots after 36 and 54 holes at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am only to melt down on Sunday to finish second. The enduring picture most people remember is of Perez smashing his fairway wood into the ground after an errant shot on Sundays back nine.
Pat Perez
Pat Perez has earned a reputation for being emotional on the golf course.
The 29-year-old Perez is a former Junior World champion and a member of the 1996 Arizona State NCAA championship team. His golf skills are abundant.
But his temper on the course has held him back. I would love to change the publics view of me, Perez told me Monday night.
Problem is his emotions keep getting in the way. At last weeks Honda Classic, where Perez finished one shot out of the Singh-Harrington-Ogilvie playoff, he flashed obscene hand gestures on more than one occasion.
The Tour Bad Boy image he has desperately been trying to shake immediately got thrown up into his face again. And he hated it.
Golf frustrates all of us who play the game at one time or another. Some of us have more trouble dealing with those frustrations than others. Perez said he had been fighting a bad cold all week at Honda and began overheating again when his putter started deserting him under the gun.
Next came the inexcusable behavior. Im not anything like this off the course, Perez said. I dont expect people to accept this kind of behavior by me. Its very unprofessional. And I apologize for the people I offended.
Add to that an apology for his sons actions that arrived, in the form of an e-mail, at The Golf Channel from Perez father.
Perez agent, Ralph Cross, had a stern conversation with Perez in which he told Perez his behavior was bad and disrespectful. But Cross added, defending his client, its not aimed at anybody. Pat is hard on himself only.
Tennis player John McEnroe was a tortured soul on the tennis court who often took out his unhappiness on linesmen, umpires and, sometimes, anybody else who came across his field of vision. Perez, it is true, tortures only himself.
Meanwhile a Tour official told me Tuesday that the bosses at Ponte Vedra Beach are aware of what happened at Honda and that Perez will be spoken to at the appropriate time. The Tour does not make public any disciplinary actions or fines against players.
The bottom line is Pat Perez is a heavenly talent with a hellish temper.
He says he has tried acting laid back on the golf course. But, he says, it makes him passive to the point of almost feeling like not trying. He says he has got to be himself but knows there is a line he shouldnt cross.
His friend John Daly, Perez says, has told him to relax. Perez adds, Ive got to figure out how to relax and still try.
That, of course, will be the hard part. Perez said he learned a lot playing in the same group with Ernie Els at the Buick Invitational earlier this year. Els nickname is The Big Easy. But he gets mad, too, on the golf course.
The difference, Perez says, is Ernie knows how to control his anger at the right time.
That, Perez knows, is the one skill on the golf course he still lacks.
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt