KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA – OCTOBER 15: Pat Perez of USA in action during the 2017 CIMB Classic at TPC Kuala Lumpur on October 15, 2017 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Photo by How Foo Yeen/Getty Images)
By Christopher Powers
Prior to 2017, Pat Perez had won just one time in 376 starts on the PGA Tour. For a player that packed loads of potential when he first made it on tour, it felt like the then 40-year-old’s career was shaping up to be one big what-if. But after undergoing shoulder surgery before beginning last season, something has clicked for the Arizona native, and it’s brought out the best golf of his life when he needed it most.
On Sunday at TPC Kuala Lumpur, Perez capped off another strong week with a three-under 69 to win the CIMB Classic by four shots, giving him the third win of his career and his second in his last 25 starts.
Perez, 41, started his final round the same way he ended his third, with a flurry of birdies that extended his lead to seven shots, a margin no one was able to come close to catching the rest of the day.
“I knew I had to stay on the gas here because guys are playing so good and you can go low any day, I was expecting someone to shoot 63 or something like that,” said Perez, who finished with a score of 24-under 264, two strokes shy of Justin Thomas 72-hole CIMB record of 26-under.
“I’m just such a different person than I was 17 years ago, even like, five years ago,” he said. “I’m learning how to play the game, I’m learning how to play my own game, stay within myself, that kind of stuff. I’m a late-bloomer.”
Call him a late-bloomer, or a PGA Tour veteran if you want, either way, there’s no denying the 41-year-old is peaking late in his career. Since his T-33 at last year’s CIMB Classic that kickstarted his season, Perez has won twice, finished T-7 or better five times and made well over $5.7 million.
Keegan Bradley made Sunday’s biggest charge, carding a five-under 67 that earned him a solo second finish at 20-under 268. It’s the 2011 PGA champion’s highest finish since last season’s Farmers Insurance Open, where he tied for fourth.
Xander Schauffele was unable to get much going in his final round, posting an even par 72 and finishing seven shots back at 17-under 271 in a tie for third with Sung Kang.
Hideki Matsuyama (71) and Cameron Smith (64) finished in a tie for fifth at 16-under 272.