In this week’s Player Blog presented by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Victor Perez discusses returning to the scene of his maiden DP World Tour title, the joy of playing in front of home crowds in France and why he is as confident as ever with his game as he targets next year’s Ryder Cup.
The Alfred Dunhill Links Championship will be an event I will forever remember. My victory in 2019 was my maiden DP World Tour title and provided the catalyst for what I have achieved since in my career. It was in my rookie season on the Tour and victory wasn’t really in my thoughts at the time. It was more a case of seeing how I would get on week by week. I missed the cut last year, but I am now in much better form and eager to put in a good performance.
The opportunity to play at three historic links courses in St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns is a great thrill and challenge. It is a huge event that players look forward to every year. I really enjoy the chance to play in a unique format alongside celebrities and amateurs because it takes you away from the routine of the schedule. The pins can also be generous as the organisers don’t want the amateurs to have a miserable time! It is a great opportunity to create relationships with people at the top of their fields in a relaxed atmosphere. The people who get the chance to play in the event alongside us professionals take it in great spirits and are here to have fun. Being able to stay at home in Edinburgh is an added bonus.
I remember that I played with French guys every day the year of my victory. Maybe, looking back, it helped free me up and put me at ease going into the final round. It is always an event I look forward to on the schedule and it is nice to have some big names back again this year.
Everyone knows about the history of the Old Course at St Andrews. It was great to play in the 150th Open there this summer. Carnoustie has its own history with it also being on the Open rotation. Kingsbarns is arguably the prettiest of the three courses. Some of the holes are incredibly scenic. It is generous off the tees, so in some sense does feel somewhat of an Americanised links. But when the weather does come in you quickly get a true experience of what Scottish links is! The three courses are all nearby in distance but different in character. We are very fortunate to have three iconic courses on the rotation for the tournament. To play the Old Course at St Andrews with the chance to win a title is everything anyone can ask for.
We had not been able to play the Open de France for two years, so I really enjoyed being back at Le Golf National last week. It was great for the French public to have the chance to watch the event once again. It’s great for children to be able to see professional golfers in person. There are several French players who have enjoyed good results this season and the event came at a time of the year when a lot of players want to play, with the chance to win DP World Tour Ranking Points to boost their chances of qualifying for the DP World Tour Championship or on the other hand secure their card for next season.
The French fans have always been very supportive of the event. I think everyone enjoyed coming back to Le Golf National after a two-year absence. There were a few French players in the final few groups on Sunday, which I am sure boosted the interest from fans. I certainly felt the warmth of support from the French public. I know Antoine Rozner and Paul Barjon were paired together which is a 2-for-1 scenario for the crowds. On Saturday, I was paired with Matthieu Pavon too which made it easy for them to follow us.
Targeting a spot in the 2023 Team Europe Ryder Cup team is a position I am familiar with. I was in contention to qualify for Whistling Straits. I will, however, go into next year with a lot more experience. My game has gradually got better and better. The work I have been doing with my coach, Pete Cowen, is coming to fruition now and long may that continue. Sometimes you can get too cut up about the results but I do feel like my game is in good shape and it is only a matter of time before things come together.
It was great to be in with a chance of winning in Italy earlier this month. All you can do is put yourself in position and I did that. Bob MacIntyre played a great round and kudos to him for getting the victory. Marco Simone will be a great course for the Ryder Cup next year. There is the potential for a lot of drama coming down the stretch, it is a course that is going to throw a lot at the players. It is very hilly so will a demanding physical test too. We are going to see some fireworks and I am hopeful of playing my part in the team.
Last week in France was another good performance by and large but I just wasn’t able to produce my best in the final round. There were still a lot of positives and I felt as if I was heavily penalised for a couple of stray shots. It’s certainly nice when you see the hard work pay off and am keen to keep up my form over the closing weeks of the season and into next year’s Ryder Cup year.
I was fully focused on my own game, but I couldn’t help but be impressed with how my playing partner Guido Migliozzi played in the final round to win. It is rare to see someone play so well in a final round, let alone on their way to victory. Just as much as golf is an individual sport, sometimes when you see some great play in front of your eyes it is important to take a few moments and reflect, ‘wow, this guy is playing really well’. His approach shot into the 18th was amazing. It was one of just two birdies all day on that hole in the final round. When our group finished, I felt his target of 16 under wasn’t going to get caught. He was making good ground during the day but to birdie the 13th, 14th, 15th and 18th to win was incredibly impressive.
My win at the Dutch Open earlier this season took a lot of weight off my shoulders. Aside from the two-year exemption that comes with a return to the winner’s circle, the confidence I took from the victory is immeasurable. I was pleased with how I played at The 150th Open in July but didn’t have my best at the Genesis Scottish Open the week before. After that I took some time to recharge in August. When you come back out after a break you feel refreshed but there is always that awareness that you need to hit the ground running again.
Making those long putts coming down the stretch on my way to winning in the Netherlands is something I took great belief from. To do so under pressure is a combination of skill and fortune. The result can so easily be different. On reflection, Ryan Fox probably played better than me in the play-off. There was a lot on the line with it forming part of The Open Qualifying Series and as a U.S. Open qualifying event. Once you get into a play-off there is an element of throwing up a coin and hoping it lands on your side. I won one on the Challenge Tour against Bob MacIntyre in China and lost one in a six-man play-off in Turkey in 2019.
I have done a lot of work on my short game with Pete which is something that has been holding me back in years prior. It is something that has maybe held me back from performing on a more consistent basis. I still have some missed cuts here and there, but we put in a lot of work early in the season and that has enabled me to feel greater confidence in all facets of my game. It can become frustrating when you make strides in one element and fall below your own standards in others. Previously my long irons had been a strength for me to rely on and suddenly I lost that. But I am no longer putting so much pressure on my long game to be spot on all the time. My short game and putting is certainly backing me up a lot more. It is nice now to feel like I am in a place where I can keep sharpening the tools rather than reinventing the wheel. I believe I have developed a much better identity in my game. Now it is just about trying to perform on a consistent basis but the belief in my processes is certainly there.