Ask Pat Perez the last time he played in the final group on a Sunday. “F—, you tell me,” said Perez during his post-round presser at the Wells Fargo Championship on Saturday evening. “I couldn’t tell you.” Was it perhaps a couple of weeks ago? “No, I was close, third to last in Hilton Head and third to last in — no, second to — what the hell was it? Second to last at San Antonio,” he replied.
He’ll play with Jonathan Byrd, who took a one-shot advantage after firing a five-under 67, in the last starting time at Quail Hollow.
Perez, the 36-hole leader, came out firing the first two days, carding 18 birdies. He cooled down on Saturday and shot two-under 70. The longest putt he made was just over five feet, which came on the difficult par-3 17th after he stuck a seven-iron.
Perez, who has entertained the press with his candid answers for two days in a row, plays in the off-season with Pat Burrell, Cody Ross and Brian Wilson of the San Francisco Giants. “Me, Burrell and Cody play the same club and Wilson just kind of plays with us for free,” said Perez.
“Wilson is awesome,” he continued. “He’s the greatest. He’s definitely a little out there, but he’s an unbelievable guy. He’s definitely nuts. You never know what you’re going to get with that guy. I’m telling you, it’s unbelievable to be around that guy.”
Some might say the same about Perez.
Back to the tournament. Perez feels like he didn’t take advantage of some scoring opportunities and simply didn’t put as well. He missed a seven-footer on the short par-4 14th and parred the reachable-in-two par-5 15th from the middle of the fairway.
“It could have been 67, 68 just easy,” he said. “I missed the one on 2 and I missed the one on 14, and those are inside six feet. And then 15 I was right in the middle of the fairway and made 5 there. That’s a bad one. And then I screwed up 7. You know, it was kind of scrappy all the way around. It wasn’t great, but I guess I played pretty good to shoot 70.”
Perez, who won the ’09 Bob Hope Classic, admitted to nerves playing a role since he hadn’t led a tournament in a while.
“You’re going to go through a stretch in 72 holes where you’re not going to hit it great for a few holes,” he said. “I didn’t hit it great on 1, 2, 3, 4, today, and 5 tee shot. But after that, it was pretty good. I don’t know what it was. There was just a lot of things going on as far as nerves and not being there and just trying to stay calm and positive and all that good stuff and just trying not to get in my own way was pretty much the goal today.”
Perez and second-round playing partner Bill Haas are both considered two of the faster guys on the PGA Tour, particularly Perez. For the five holes I followed them, they waited on every single shot, but this didn’t bother Perez since it’s not a rare occurrence. In fact, it’s actually the norm.
“I wait on every shot always,” he said. “I wait every single shot every single day on the PGA Tour, so I’ve gotten really used to doing that.
“I just kind of walk around and talk and walk around and then when it’s my shot, I’ll move into my stuff. For ten years it’s taken five hours to play and all everyone does is bitch about it. It never changes.”
He recounted a few years ago at Hazeltine for the ’09 PGA Championship when he was first off and played as a single. He finished 18 holes in an hour and 53 minutes.
“I putt out on 18 before Tom Watson behind me marked his ball on 9,” said Perez. “He was in the group behind me.”
While he’s only one back of Byrd, who is 15-under, at least a handful of players are within striking distance. Perez actually doesn’t mind playing catch-up on Sunday. He wouldn’t mind if he had the lead, either.
“I know I’m going to have to shoot low tomorrow. Look at the scores today; they were all low. I know tomorrow it’s going to take a number. It’ll take a number for everybody tomorrow. You’ve got a lot of guys at 11-, 12-under, but guys come out and shoot 65, 66 on Sunday and they move way up the board. Look at [Brandt] Snedeker [at The Heritage] — he shoots 64 and the guy was done for two hours and has to wait around…
“You’ve just gotta keep your foot on the gas, and it’s not going to be play for pars and stuff like that. But I’m more than comfortable being one back.”
I didn’t have a chance to post the slew of beauties from Perez’s presser on Friday evening. It was definitely the best one I’d been to all year. He’s so straightforward and he’s hilarious without trying to be. Anyway, here are some of the best Pat Perez-isms. I’d recommend reading the entire transcript, too.
*Q. What was going through your mind standing on 13?
PAT PEREZ: Nothing. Nothing really. Because at the time all the focus is on Lucas, so I was like a side thought. So I didn’t really show any pressure. He was playing great golf, and he shot, what, 6-under through 10 or something, and that putt he made on 10, the crowd went crazy. They’re all Clemson fans out there, so they’re all for him. They didn’t know I was there.
*Q. You not only changed your swing, you basically did a 14-club tear-down, right?
PAT PEREZ: It took me about 20 drivers to get the right one. That one I got now, that R11, is money.
*Q: Talk about swing changes after missing the cut at the Northern Trust Open:
PAT PEREZ: The first week was just miserable because it was such a change. When I made the first changes, I went from real steep to real flat so the club moved about that far from the top of the swing, and then now I had to go back about this far up to get it back on plane. And then I had to try and — so I got it going for the most part.
We worked on hitting the inside of the ball, and then it got to the point where my release wasn’t right. I was working so hard on this part that I didn’t get this part. So it didn’t come until — I talked to Elkington about it, too, and he knows about as much as anybody that’s ever walked the face of the earth about golf, and he gave me some pointers there through that stretch, as well. He was telling me about the release of my hips to hit the inside of the ball, and that clicked.
And I got on that San Antonio range on Tuesday and I didn’t miss a shot, and I went out to the course and didn’t miss a shot, Wednesday didn’t miss a shot, and I thought, that’s it. That’s the missing piece of what I need to do.
Once I see something that works right, I go with it. I don’t care what it is. It’s just going to go because I know what I was doing before ain’t going to work. So I had no problem taking it to the course. It’s just been great.
Again, because during those three weeks I went through a lot of thinking process of what the hell did I used to do. I used to be a great putter and what the hell happened, this and this, and I said, well, that cross-hand is out. So I grabbed this putter. I was just screwing around at the house and the putter was buried back in one of these bags I had and I pulled it out and I got set up to it, and I go, that’s it. I took to the course the next day, and I said, watch this sh–. You know, and I said, this is it. I’m taking this to the course and I played La Estancia every day and was killing it. I said I’m taking it to San Antonio next week. That’s it.
*Q. Do you recall why you benched the putter after San Antonio in ’06?
PAT PEREZ: I must have just gotten too out of whack with it and had some outside advice that I didn’t need and went away from it. I don’t know, but that’s why you never get rid of anything.
*Q. You’re at a point now where you’re playing golf and not playing golf swing. Bubba is talking about Tiger getting too wrapped up, Two Gloves doesn’t have any swing thoughts.
PAT PEREZ: None. He’s the most talented guy out here. Well, Bubba, too. You’d call their swings definitely unconventional, and they hit the ball in the middle of the face every time. Tommy has definitely proved himself that it doesn’t matter what the hell it looks like because it only matters from here to here in the swing. If the face is square here and here and here, ball is going to go straight. The rest of it doesn’t matter.
*Q. You shot 80 in LA was it?
PAT PEREZ: Probably, I don’t know. Probably, but it was bad. I probably quit on the third hole. It doesn’t even matter. When you can’t hit it, it doesn’t matter. When it’s raining, the whole show, you’ve got rain and you can’t hit it anyway and you’re hitting it 250 off the tee, it’s pointless to be out there. That was a low for me because it just sucked. It sucked, because I know where I can play, and that just wasn’t it.
*Q. Given the extracurricular activities you were kind of thrown into last week [Perez was playing with O’Hair and Sabbatini when they got into a heated exchange last week] and then being sought after, for lack of a better word, early this week, was there any part of you that was just happy to get back on the golf course?
PAT PEREZ: Yeah, a lot of me. Well, you know, last week didn’t — it didn’t involved me. If it would have involved me, I would have given you guys everything that happened. But it didn’t involve me, so it really wasn’t my place to say anything. Yeah, like I told my caddie, it’s so nice just to have a nice — Sean O’Hair is one of the greatest guys in the world. I love playing with him. And Rory has his moments. I’ve always gotten along with Rory, and I know how to — like I said, I know how to deal with him and stuff like that. For the most part Rory doesn’t even bother me in the least. It was a tough situation, and I’m hoping it never happens again because you never like to see two players go at it. It just sucks because no one wins in the end anyway.
*Q. Would you call your changes you made since Northern Trust major, minor?
PAT PEREZ: I’d call them major, but it came to me pretty easy. I’ve always been pretty good at taking something and just going with it and working as hard as I can on it. The whole body release thing for me is different, and the guy I had in mind when I was doing this whole thing was David Duval. He almost didn’t even look at the ball when he was hitting it, so for a lot of the time, I thought Duval, Duval, release as hard as I can because I would always get to impact and my body would be stopped and then my arms would fly, and then the only thing that would make my body move is the fact that my arms were moving at that speed. I’m trying to get my body to release and go first and just let the club follow like all the good players do, the guys that win.
*DOUG MILNE: Let’s take you back to Bob Hope in 2009. When you finished you were signing some autographs and one little kid said, “Hey, champ, are you going to come back next year and win again?” And you said, “I don’t know, probably not.”
PAT PEREZ: Stat man [Alex Miceli] will tell you — what is the percentage of defending anyway?
(AP Photo/Chuck Burton)