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.
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."