Future finally looking bright for 'at ease' Perez

By Doug FergusonAugust 1, 2017, 10:21 pm

AKRON, Ohio - Pat Perez is in his 16th season on the PGA Tour and finally feeling like he's in the big leagues.

For the first time in his career, Perez is eligible for all four majors and the four World Golf Championships. And at No. 11 in the FedEx Cup with three weeks before the playoffs begin, he is on track to make it to East Lake for the Tour Championship for the first time.

At age 41, one year removed from shoulder surgery that he feared might end his career, the grass has never looked greener.

''I can't even describe it,'' Perez said. ''The likelihood of me being in this tournament? I was No. 334 in the world. To have the year I've had, it's just amazing.''

He wasn't sure which club to hit off the 10th tee at Firestone during a practice round Tuesday because his one and only appearance in this World Golf Championship was in 2009, the year Tiger Woods set a PGA Tour record by winning for the seventh time on the same course. Perez finished 12 shots behind.

Perez and Woods go way back, and it involves more than some fiery (and accurate) comments he made about Woods on his radio show earlier this year.

He beat Woods by eight shots in winning the 1993 Junior World Championship at Torrey Pines. Later that year, Perez won the Junior PGA Championship at Pinehurst No. 4 with a 72-hole score of 271, which remains the tournament record in the boys' division.

But it took Perez losing so much - mainly his health and an equipment contract - for him to realize he could have done so much more.

WGC-Bridgestone Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

His left shoulder was in so much pain early in 2016 that his only option was surgery, a perilous prospect at that stage in his career. He slept on his couch for a month because it hurt to get in and out of bed. He wasn't planning to play again until 2017 rolled around.

And then he received a lifeline in the form of a sponsor's exemption from the CIMB Classic in Malaysia, which offered a short field, no cut and a $7 million purse. Perez finished in the middle of the pack, tied for seventh two weeks later in Las Vegas and then won the OHL Classic in Mexico in just his third tournament back.

Just like that, Perez went from wondering if his shoulder would allow him to play again to spending time in the company of the world's best players on the biggest stages.

Why now?

''I think as a whole, I'm just so much more at ease with life,'' he said. ''It's amazing when you grind, grind, grind forever and don't really have problems. And when it's taken away from you, I just had a whole different vision. I can have it all taken away. A shoulder can go out again. So I guess I'm putting everything into it.''

Perez already has made over $3.5 million, nearly twice as much money as his best season.

He was never more giddy than when he received his official letter from the USGA in late May that he would be exempt into the U.S. Open because he was among the top 60 in the world (a career-best No. 40 for Perez). It was the first time he didn't have to go through qualifying.

''I might just go out to the qualifier to watch,'' he joked that day. ''I might stand on the 18th green and read my letter to everyone coming off.''

Perez has a brand of humor that smacks of bravado and rubs some the wrong way.

He has a radio show in which he praised Woods for being the needle that moves golf, and then offered a blunt assessment that Woods knows he can't beat anyone right now and that if Woods didn't play the Masters, he wouldn't play the rest of the year.

Woods didn't play the Masters, had a fourth back surgery a few months later and is out the rest of the year. Even so, the criticism was so severe that Perez abandoned social media. He said he recently sent Woods a text - they have known each other since they were teenagers - and Woods messaged him back. It was important to clear the air.

And now for the finishing kick.

Perez finally hit a wall, though partially by design. He missed the cut in the U.S. Open by one shot, took a month off to recharge for a busy schedule at the end of the year, and missed the cut at The Open. If anything, it hurt his prospects of making the Presidents Cup team.

''He wants to be part of this team in the worst way,'' said U.S. captain Steve Stricker, who played a practice round with Perez at Royal Birkdale. ''He hasn't been playing as well of late as he did at the start of the year, but there's four events left. He's on our radar, for sure. He didn't play or earn any points last year, so he's done this all in one year's time.''

Even if he doesn't make it, Perez feels he has made his point, with most of that motivation aimed at Callaway for dropping him last year when he was on the mend.

''It was more the fact everyone thought I couldn't come back and do it,'' he said. ''And there was a little fear. I didn't want to lose my card. I came back and was mad, just mad enough to prove all these guys wrong.''

One of golf's most temperamental characters, it might have been the first time he channeled his anger in the right way.

''Yeah,'' Perez said with a chuckle. ''That's probably right.''

Marc Dull (Florida State Golf Association)

Golden: Dull rude, caddie 'inebriated' at Florida Mid-Am

By Ryan LavnerMay 25, 2018, 1:03 am

Jeff Golden has offered more detail on what transpired at the Florida Mid-Amateur Championship, writing in a long statement on Twitter that Marc Dull’s caddie was “inebriated” before he allegedly sucker-punched Golden in the face.

In a story first reported by GolfChannel.com, Charlotte County Police responded to a call May 13 after Golden claimed that he’d been assaulted by his opponent’s caddie in the parking lot of Coral Creek Club, where he was competing in the Mid-Am finals. Golden told police that the caddie, Brandon Hibbs, struck him because of a rules dispute earlier in the round. Hibbs denied any involvement, and police found no evidence of an attack.

Golden posted a 910-word statement on the alleged incident on his Twitter account on Thursday night. He said that he wanted to provide more detail because “others have posed some valid questions about the series of events that led to me withdrawing” from what was an all-square match with two holes to play.

Golden wrote that both Dull and Hibbs were rude and disruptive during the match, and that “alcohol appeared to be influencing [Hibbs’] behavior.”

Dull, who caddies at Streamsong Resort in Florida, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“I’ve never seen an opposing caddie engage in so much conversation with a competitor,” Golden wrote. “On the eighth hole I had become extremely frustrated when my opponent and caddie were talking and moving. I expressed my disappointment with their etiquette to the rules official in our group.”

On the ninth hole, Golden informed the official that he believed Hibbs had broken the rules by offering advice on his putt. Golden won the hole by concession to move 2 up at the turn, and Hibbs removed himself from the match and returned to the clubhouse.

Golden wrote that after the penalty, the match “turned even nastier, with more negative comments from my opponent on the 10th tee.” He added that he conceded Dull’s 15-foot birdie putt on No. 10 because he was “sick of the abuse from my opponent, and I wanted the match to resemble what you would expect of a FSGA final.”

Though there were no witnesses to the alleged attack and police found little evidence, save for “some redness on the inside of {Golden’s] lip,” Golden wrote that the inside of his mouth was bleeding, his face was “throbbing” and his hand was also injured from bracing his fall. X-rays and CT scans over the past week all came back negative, he said.

Golden reiterated that he was disappointed with the FSGA’s decision to accept his concession in the final match. He had recommended that they suspend the event and resume it “at a later time.”

“The FSGA has one job, and that’s to follow the Rules of Golf,” Golden wrote. “Unfortunately, there’s no rule for an inebriated ‘ex-caddie’ punching a player in a match-play rain delay with no witnesses.”

Asked last week about his organization’s alcohol policy during events, FSGA executive director Jim Demick said that excessive consumption is “highly discouraged, but it falls more broadly under the rules of etiquette and player behavior.”

Dull, 32, was back in the news Wednesday, after he and partner Chip Brooke reached the finals of the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship. They lost to high schoolers Cole Hammer and Garrett Barber, 4 and 3.

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D. Kang, M. Jutanugarn in four-way tie at Volvik

By Associated PressMay 25, 2018, 12:50 am

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Amy Olson crossed paths with her coach, Ron Stockton, on her walk to the 18th tee at the Volvik Championship.

''Make it another even $20,'' Stockton said.

The coach was already prepared to give his client $35 for making seven birdies - $5 each - and wanted to take her mind off the bogey she just had at 17.

Olson closed the first round with a 6-under 66, putting her into the lead she ended up sharing later Thursday with Moriya Jutanugarn , Caroline Masson and Danielle Kang.

Do small, cash incentives really help a professional golfer?

''Absolutely,'' said Olson, who graduated from North Dakota State with an accounting degree. ''He'll tell you I'm a little bit of a hustler there.''

Olson will have to keep making birdies - and petty cash - to hold her position at Travis Pointe Country Club.

Jessica Korda, Minjee Lee, Nasa Hataoka, Lindy Duncan, Morgan Pressel, Megan Khang and Jodi Ewart Shadoff were a stroke back at 67 and six others were to shots back.

Ariya Jutanugarn, the Kingsmill Championship winner last week in Virginia, opened with a 69.

The Jutanugarn sisters are Korda are among six players with a chance to become the LPGA Tour's first two-time winner this year.

Moriya Jutanugarn won for the first time in six years on the circuit last month in Los Angeles.

''What I feel is more relaxed now,'' she said. ''And, of course I like looking forward for my next one.''

Olson, meanwhile, is hoping to extend the LPGA Tour's streak of having a new winner in each of its 12 tournaments this year.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

She knows how to win. It just has been a while since it has happened.

Olson set an NCAA record with 20 wins, breaking the mark set by LPGA Hall of Famer Juli Inkster, but has struggled to have much success since turning pro in 2013.

She has not finished best finish was a tie for seventh and that was four years ago. She was in contention to win the ANA Inspiration two months ago, but an even-par 72 dropped her into a tie for ninth place.

If the North Dakota player wins the Volvik Championship, she will earn a spot in the U.S. Open at Shoal Creek in Alabama. If Olson finishes second or lower in the 144-player field, she will enjoy an off week with her husband, Grant, who coaches linebackers at Indiana State.

''I'll make the best of it either way,'' she said.

Olson was at her best in the opening round on the front nine, closing it with four birdies in a six-hole stretch. Her ball rolled just enough to slowly drop in the cup for birdie on the par-3, 184-yard 13th. She had three birdies in five-hole stretch on the back, nearly making her second hole-in-one of the year at the par-3, 180-yard 16th. A short putt gave her a two-stroke lead, but it was cut to one after pulling and misreading a 6-foot putt to bogey the 17th.

Even if she doesn't hold on to win the tournament, Olson is on pace to have her best year on the LPGA Tour. She is No. 39 on the money list after finishing 97th, 119th, 81st and 80th in her first four years.

''Two years ago, I started working with Ron Stockton and whenever you make a change, it doesn't show up right away,'' Olson said. ''That first year was tough, but we've turned a corner and I've just found a lot of consistency in the last year. And, it's a lot of fun to go out there and play golf a little more stress free.''

Stockton helped her stay relaxed, walking along the ropes during her morning round.

''Maybe some people feel a little more pressure when their coach is there,'' she said. ''I'm like, 'Great. If he sees the mistake, he knows what can go wrong and we can go fix it.' So, I like having his eyes on me.''

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Club pro part of 6-way tie atop Sr. PGA

By Associated PressMay 25, 2018, 12:04 am

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - Nevada club professional Stuart Smith shot a 5-under 66 on Thursday for a share of the first-round lead in the Senior PGA Championship.

Smith closed his morning round with a double bogey on the par-4 18th, and Scott McCarron, Tim Petrovic, Wes Short Jr., Barry Lane and Peter Lonard matched the 66 in the afternoon.

One of 41 club pros in the field at Harbor Shores for the senior major, Smith is the director of golf at Somersett Country Club in Reno.

Full-field scores from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship

McCarron won the Senior Players Championship last year for his first senior major.

Defending champion Bernhard Langer is skipping the event to attend son Jason's high school graduation, and Steve Stricker is playing the PGA Tour event in Texas.

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Watch: Na punctuates caddie tiff with hole-out

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 24, 2018, 11:10 pm

Microphones captured a fascinating and testy exchange between Kevin Na and his caddie, Kenny Harms, on Na's final hole of the first round of the Fort Worth Invitational on Thursday.

Na was in the right rough, 185 yards from the ninth green, which was guarded by water. He vacillated between a hybrid and an iron, but with either club he would have to hit "a 40-yard cut," as Harms termed it.

"Over the green's dead," Harms warned.

"It's not gonna go over the green, Kenny," Na replied.

Na finally settled on an iron and said to Harms, "As long as you're OK with this club."

"I'm not," Harms replied. "I'm not OK with either one of them."

"I'm going with this," Na ended the discussion.

He missed the green with his approach shot, but avoided the water. After taking a free drop away from the grandstand, he had 92 feet 3 inches to the cup and of course, holed the pitch shot for a birdie-3, a 62 and a one-shot lead at the end of the first round.