Perez continues strong comeback from injury

Pat Perez tees off on the 15th hole Sunday at the Kapalua Plantation Course during the final round of the SBS Tournament of Champions. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Pat Perez tees off on the 15th hole Sunday at the Kapalua Plantation Course during the final round of the SBS Tournament of Champions. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

KAPALUA — With hair down to his shoulders and Bill Murray logos on the front his hat and back of his shirt, Pat Perez doesn’t look like a 40-year-old member of the PGA Tour.

In his first trip to the Kapalua Plantation Course in seven years, Perez showed that he can still play with the best in the world as he finished in a tie for third in the SBS Tournament of Champions. He shot 6-under 67 on Sunday to finish at 16-under 276, tied with Jordan Spieth and Ryan Moore.

“It’s really cool, I was looking forward to it right after I won — I got home, we started making plans and I couldn’t wait to get back over here,” Perez said. “I played good, I hit some good shots, I hit some shots when I needed to and I hit some bad shots when I didn’t need to. But overall I was going to whistle Dixie the whole time just to get back here anyway.”

Perez tied for 10th on Maui in 2010 after his first career victory, at the Bob Hope Classic in 2009.

After seven months of rehabilitation with no golf last year while he recovered from surgery on a torn labrum in his left shoulder, Perez returned in October at the CIMB Classic. Two events later, he shot 21 under — including a 62 in the third round — to win the OHL Classic in Mayakoba, Mexico.

It was his second win in 379 career starts.

“Nine months ago or 10 months ago I was out of commission and it’s amazing what’s transpired in that time,” Perez said. “I get a little bit of soreness some shots. When they get stuck in the ground I can feel it a little bit, but I will — I’ll feel it forever.”

He has confidence this is not his last trip to Maui.

“I feel like I can be back here every year,” he said.

This week could have been even better.

“As wide as the fairways are I hit some of the worst tee shots I’ve hit in my life and missed the fairways — I couldn’t figure it out,” he said. “I think it does (fit my game). The greens are good, I’ve hit it longer than I ever have, so that helps. You’ve got to hit some good irons, you’ve got to make some putts. I did that some of that this week.”

Perez has never made the Tour Championship, which takes the top 30 players in the FedEx Cup standings after the season and the first three events of the playoffs. He is currently third in those standings, behind Hideki Matsuyama and Justin Thomas, the top-two finishers at Kapalua.

“I would like to get there finally,” Perez said. “And nothing more would please me than to get on a team like the Presidents Cup. I’ve got a long way to go obviously, but I think there’s no bigger honor than to play on your country’s team. I think it would be just the coolest thing.

“I’ve got the total team mentality, I would kill to be on something like that. It means a lot to everybody. Being on a winning team for the cup, I would love to have that opportunity.”

Perez has been involved from the start with William Murray Clothing, the new line involving the famous actor.

“It’s fun,” Perez said of working with Murray. “I don’t see him a whole lot, but he’s a character. He’s awesome, he’s the best. We’re nowhere yet, but we’re going to be massive in ’18.”

Perez admitted playing the 7,452-yard Plantation was a tough endeavor. He will tee it up at Waialae Country Club for the Sony Open this week on Oahu.

“It’s a hard walk,” he said. “I’ve been sitting around doing nothing, riding in carts for seven weeks and I finally know that I can do it. Going to next week is going to be like, you know, walking six holes, which is going to be awesome. I’m looking forward to that.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.

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