The Tarbais, who will celebrate his 30th birthday on September 2, had a slump of a few months but he is coming back strong: with a total of -4 on Friday (-3 for the 2nd round alone), he is 9 shots behind the leader but s sure to pass the cut, which he had not done since his 22nd place at the PGA Championship 2020.
This time, for this prestigious 150th edition of The Open, it’s over. What’s more, among an ultra-high plateau when he only obtained his right of entry – coupled with the US Open – after his victory at the Dutch Open at the end of May.
“In drive and putting, he is among the best in the world”, underlines to AFP one of Perez’s predecessors in place of French N.1, Thomas Levet.
His weakness are the approaches, the little game.
But Saint Andrews, he knows it. He won one of his two titles on the European Tour there, during the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in 2019. Except that, he points out, the Dunhill is played in autumn and that the same course of the Old Course in summer, ” It’s day and night “.
“Hole 18 which is 350 yards, I hit a 2 iron, not asked very well hit, and she climbed on it (the green). Well… it came down, but it’s only judgment, you have to manage to trust yourself, say to yourself + my ball will go the distance +”, details the 107th in the world after his first lap completed in one blow under par.
Precisely, despite the changing conditions of this course which he knows all the better as he now lives in Dundee, about twenty kilometers from the cradle of golf, Perez feels confident.
So, even the fact that this time the course is labeled British Open, with one of the most prized sports trophies, the Claret Jug, does not seem to reach it.
“It doesn’t change anything in particular,” he says. The flags and the ball didn’t make it feel like The Open.”
However, he savors the “atmosphere” which makes “it’s great to be there”.
The caddy and the key
“It’s the Mecca of golf and when the rotation comes to Saint Andrews it’s always a special event,” he explains in reference to the rotating organization of the British Open.
In addition, this year, the public turned out en masse to follow the exploits of the golfers on this historic links. And for Perez, who played his first seven Majors in the era of pandemic measures, “having the public after covid is nice”.
“Especially here where it is an audience who knows, who knows how to appreciate if a shot is good or less good and who is grateful when he sees a shot of quality”, he underlines.
Another of the keys to his newfound confidence is the relationship that has developed with his new caddy, a former friend from the American University of New Mexico, James Erkenbek. His previous, JP Fitzgerald with whom he had won the Dunhill, had been dismissed in August 2021, after the cut failures in the four Majors.
“It’s been a year and we have found our marks,” says Perez about Erkenbek with whom he signed the success of the revival in the Netherlands.
“There is always a period of adaptation and we really manage to find our language. He knew me as a friend but not asked as a player and it is not asked the same. The victory in Amsterdam confirmed the work done and it bodes well for the future,” said the player.