KAWAGOE, Japan – Had the Summer Games not been delayed a year by the COVID-19 pandemic, Mito Pereira would have been watching the action on television.
The Chilean was just inside the top 300 in the world ranking at the time – you need to be inside the top 250 to qualify for the Olympics - and trying to find his way on the Korn Ferry Tour following an eventful start to his young professional career.
Since the Olympics was rescheduled, Pereira, 26, earned a promotion to the PGA Tour with three victories on the secondary circuit and posted back-to-back top-10 finishes in his last two big-league starts, to set the stage for this week’s men’s competition at Kasumigaseki Country Club.
“More than confident, it's more like believing in yourself that you can do it,” Pereira said following a second-round 65 that moved him into a tie for second place when play was initially suspended because of weather. “Obviously, you get three wins on the Korn Ferry it's not easy, and then a couple Tour starts to get top 5 and top 6 in PGA Tour events, it's a big deal for me. Like, you never know if you can do it or not.”
That confidence was on full display Friday when he climbed the leaderboard with three birdies and an eagle through his first nine holes. He closed with a 2-under back nine to move into the hunt at the weather-delayed event.
For Pereira, just playing the Olympics alongside childhood friend Joaquin Niemann is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that a year ago wasn’t even possible.
“I'm in the great position, great tournament, great event,” Pereira said, “so just try to enjoy a little bit where I'm standing.”