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Victor Perez has eyes on the Dutch prize again

Victor Perez has eyes on the Dutch prize again

By Mathieu Wood

Victor Perez says he still has “everything to prove” on his KLM Open title defence this week as he seeks to strengthen his bid for a Ryder Cup debut later this season.

The Frenchman overcame Kiwi Ryan Fox in a thrilling four-hole play-off last year in the Netherlands and returns to Bernardus Golf on a high after a tie for 12th at last week’s US PGA Championship.

In his six starts on the DP World Tour so far this year, Perez has registered no worse than a tie for 31st and claimed his maiden Rolex Series title at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in January.

Those consistent performances have left him sitting third on the Race to Dubai Rankings in Partnership with Rolex and in one of the three automatic qualifying spots on the European Points List for the Ryder Cup.

But despite his winning record on Dutch soil, the World Number 59 knows that counts for nothing as he goes up against a field that includes five other past winners of the event.

“I feel like you still have everything to prove,” he said on the eve of the tournament in Cromvoirt.

“Just because you won the year before doesn’t mean you start at ten under. Everybody starts at level par and you have to prove everything again every year.

“Doesn’t matter if you come as defending champion or missing ten cuts in a row.

"Golf for that is great, you don’t have an easier draw because you’re the top seed, it’s the same for everyone.”

Perez claimed his first DP World Tour title in his first full season at the 2019 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, before he narrowly missed out on qualifying for the delayed Ryder Cup two years later.

With a busy European swing of events on the DP World Tour, alongside the final two Major Championships, the 30-year-old knows consistency is pivotal.

“One of the mistakes I made for Whistling Straits was I was in a similar position, inside the top 50, so I had the opportunity to play in America but then you don’t have the opportunity to score points on the European Points List,” he reflected.

“It’s tricky because it didn’t work last time and it doesn’t mean that because I’m playing in Europe it means I’m going to make the team. It might not work.

“At the end of the day, it’s just about playing well and elevating your game when the deadline approaches.”

Bernardus Golf is hosting Netherlands’ national open for a third year running and Perez is glad to be back on the heathland layout, designed by American architect Kyle Phillips, who was also responsible for Yas Links Abu Dhabi.

“I was looking forward to coming back,” he said. “It’s a course I really enjoy. It’s a great place, meant to have great weather.

“Fortunately for me, it generally plays the same. It’s sand-based so it drains really well.

“From what I’ve heard it still plays relatively fast. It should play similar to last year, which is nice because you don’t have to play around with your lines or change too much with your strategy.

“I’m expecting to have the same bag [club selection] as last year.”

'I'm hungry for more'

Joining Perez in the field this week is fellow Ryder Cup contender Adrian Meronk, who is chasing a third Tour win of the campaign.

The Pole won his third title in less than a year at last month’s DS Automobiles Italian Open at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club, where the Ryder Cup will be staged.

He finished third in last year’s event, securing an exemption into the 150th Open at St Andrews in the process, as he produced a remarkable highlight-reel par save out of the water on the par-three eighth during the final round.

Describing that moment as “one of the highlights” of his year, he added: “The entire Sunday was great.

“I had my mum and some friends here last year, so some great memories.

"To be able to qualify for The Open was special as well so great memories and I’m looking forward to this week.”

The 29-year-old leads the four-event U.S. Open Qualifying Series following his win in Italy but is now exempt for the third men’s Major of the year due to being inside the world’s top 60.

Despite that and already being in the field for this year’s Open Championship, Meronk is looking to kick on in his quest for more success.

“This time last year I had been coming quite close a couple of times so to have three wins now, one year later, is a great achievement and I’m very proud of that, but I’m hungry for more,” he said.

“My game feels good, so I just want to focus on that, keep playing my best and see what happens. I definitely feel more comfortable being in contention now than I did last year.”

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