N ° 40 in the world ranking, he is the highest ranked Scottish golfer. Well, sort of.
When, six months ago, the Frenchman Victor Perez won his first European Tour title, the Dunhill Links Championship, at the Old Course in St. Andrews, the 27-year-old player did so only 14 miles from the house he shares with his girlfriend in Dundee, Caledonia’s fourth city across the Tay River. Abigail is a dental student in the “city of discovery”, once known worldwide for its “three J’s” – jute, jam and journalism.
Perez soon followed the victory at the most famous golf site with a T-4 final to the WGC-HSBC champions in China and a second place in Turkey and Abu Dhabi.
Such a spectacular race at the start of the qualification process means that if the team were announced today, Perez would be a member of the next European Ryder Cup team. Not by chance, he also made his Masters debut last week. Overall, this is a huge plus, but as things turned into a coronavirus pandemic, something negative, you might think too.
Not at all, says Perez. Given that he was in Scotland rather than the United States, it could be easy to imagine that he saw the postponement of the first major of the year as a disappointment. But the opposite is true. The former major in psychology at the University of New Mexico actually considers a November Master’s degree as potentially a bonus for beginners like him.
“Like everyone else, I was looking forward to the Masters,” said Perez. “But I look at the report in a positive way. With the November tournament, no one will really know what the course and conditions will look like. We’re all going to have the kinds of questions that are normally reserved for beginners like me. The more crazy it is, the more it will help me, I think. The guys who have been going there for years will lose a bit of their edge. They will not be able to prepare in the way that has worked in the past. It will be a first for everyone. “
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This level of positivity is a relatively recent addition to the game of a man who has consistently traced an uphill path through professional golf. Leaving the amateur ranks in 2015, Perez played first on the development of the Alpes Tour, where his fifth place on the 2016 silver list earned him promotion to the European Challenge Tour. Two years and two wins later, Perez’s third place on this silver list meant a jump to the European Tour.
“I’ve played quite a few innings with Victor in the past two years,” said Bob MacIntyre, who is actually the top-ranked Scottish golfer in 67th place. “But there have been quite a few changes in recent months. His game has definitely gone up a notch. Where he used to hit almost all shots from left to right, he now has much more neutral ball flight, especially on his discs. This made it more consistent. He’s one of those guys whose strength is that he has no obvious weakness. He just does a lot of things right. “
However, like most recruits, Perez first thought of consolidation rather than triumph on the second largest circuit in the world. But that quickly changed soon after Irishman JP Fitzgerald – Rory McIlroy’s longtime former cadet started carrying the Frenchman’s bag to Sweden last August.
“The following week, we were in Switzerland,” says Perez. “Halfway through the second lap, I was on the cutting line. JP said to me, “OK, now we have to hit each pin and really push.” In the back of my mind, I thought there was really no need to press that much. I told her everything was fine. But then I realized that where he looked on the board and where I looked were very different. He was looking at the head and what we had to do to get back into the tournament. I was just looking to play solid, make the cut and hope to play well on the weekends.
“It was my state of mind, one that is typical of anyone at the start of their touring career,” said Perez. “For almost everyone, it’s about keeping your card and making more cuts than thinking about winning. But JP changed that for me. He has higher ambitions for me and it has allowed me to reach my potential more often. We won our fourth race together, all because my mood has changed. “
It was not the first time that Perez realized his limits and acted on them. Shortly after arriving at college in Albuquerque, N.M., competing in tournaments against players like Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas and many other top players, he had a similar moment of reflection.
“Playing in the United States made a big difference in my game,” said Perez, who represented France at the 2014 World Amateur Team Championship. “The courses were set up so much harder than what I was used to in Europe. Any score around the peer was almost always good. It taught me to be patient and to use my mind.
“Jordan and Justin were there too, as well as a group of guys who are now on the PGA tour. This level of competition on difficult courses has really helped me to develop. I certainly knew what I had to do to get better. Until then, I hardly knew what it would take. It was a real eye opener to play well and finish 20th. It made me get better. “
More recently, Perez took advantage of his change of location. A regular at the Ladybank Club of Fife, he has also played “Panmure” and “Carnoustie” a few times. The Drumoig and St. Andrews driving ranges have also become permanent haunts. Unsurprisingly, life in Scotland is good for a golfer.
“The Scottish people have been very welcoming,” he says. “I have been able to play so many courses in this area and everyone has been very nice. It was great for my game. ”
The proximity to the golf course also brought a final advantage. Almost two weeks ago, accompanied by his dog, Darcy, and the Dunhill’s pin sheet, Perez took a nostalgic walk in the Old Course.
“It was a way to be active and a good reminder of some of the blows I hit last year,” he said. “It was interesting to watch the course from a different perspective. It is not often that you get there when it is completely deserted. There were no flags in the holes and certainly no people. I liked walking in the last holes, remembering the shots I had hit. There were so many great memories and key moments to remember. “
OK, so it was not Augusta National during Masters Week. But the Old Course for you? Definitely the next best thing.
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