In this week’s Player Blog presented by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Victor Perez talks about playing in his first Masters, giving back to the local area, and how he handles the mental pressures of the game
I would watch the Masters tournament when I was growing up, and my parents told me when I was 10 or 12 years old I said ‘one day I’ll be there’. Whether I was saying it seriously at the time I’m not sure, but this week is a great achievement for me, and I hope it’s just the beginning.
Obviously, it was disappointing that they had to cancel the tournament in April, and I think looking back it affected me more than I thought at the time. When everything got shut down I was at The Players, it was so unexpected, and it’s something I talked about it with my psychologist. When it happened, it was like going into a phase of shock. It was surreal, and I couldn’t believe a tournament was being cancelled for that reason, so it was difficult to accept and rationalise because it was so different to what anyone has ever known. It would have been cool for the Masters to be my first Major, but right now I’m trying to look at everything, whether it’s good or bad, with a positive attitude and vibe around that. Somebody is going to win, so you have to put everything aside, accept the changes, and try to focus on what you can.
I actually stayed out in America for a little while waiting to see what would happen before flying back to Scotland, where I live. While I was in the US I managed to get up to Augusta for a day and play. I’ve been before to watch during Masters week on Mondays when I was at college, so I had already seen the elevation changes – which is the biggest difference to what you see on TV - but it was really cool to be there. More than any other tournament, because it’s always played on the same course, you have a lot of memories of shots over the years: Phil winning, Tiger’s chip on 16, Adam Scott winning, a Bubba shot. To be able to stand on the course and think ‘oh this is where this happened’ and you can see how a shot would have played out was really cool.
Arriving in and visiting the city of Augusta, Georgia, made me want to do something to help with those affected by the pandemic. I was inspired by the Golf for Good initiative that the European Tour has been doing since we restarted the season and thought I could do something similar. The city of Augusta counts on the Masters to bring in revenue and visitors, so in a time where businesses are struggling to make ends meet, we thought being able to give back a little would go a long way. I wanted to take a lead on that and donate money linked to my play through GainsForGood. I will be donating $1000 for every birdie and $5000 for every eagle I make during Masters week. I will also be wearing a limited edition logo shirt that can be purchased with proceeds going towards the GainsForGood initiative. I’m very thankful to Modern Golf Canada and Greyson Clothiers for believing in these opportunities to help Augusta and different charities along the way. Funds will be gifted to the CSRA COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund and administered through Community Foundation for the CSRA, who launched this emergency fund in conjunction with the United Way of the CSRA earlier this year.
I will be donating $1000 for every birdie and $5000 for every eagle I make in @TheMasters— Victor Perez (@v_perez2) November 10, 2020
The initiative is called #GainsForGood and it aims to help the Augusta community in need.
Please visit https://t.co/OlynSmhqeu for more info.
Thank you, and happy Masters week!
With everything going on, it’s about adapting and taking opportunities, and I think for me, holding the Masters in November could be an advantage. There won’t be fans and it’s at a different time of year, so I don’t have to deal with that anticipation of having played the course in a certain way or have memories of hitting certain shots. Obviously some guys have seen the course in every condition so it’s not going to make a difference, but for the guys that have been there two, three or four years they may have only played the course one way and it’s going to look different, so I think having that open-mindedness about it from not being there could be an advantage. In terms of how it suits me, I’m fortunate that I’m on the higher end of length on driving distance, but there’s so much more that goes into a golf tournament than distance, so we’ll see how things play out.
Sometimes in golf, not knowing is a good thing. I haven’t really asked anyone for advice leading up to the Masters, because for me it can be really easy to overthink and make things more difficult than they need to be. I feel like I’m fortunate enough to have JP (Fitzgerald) as my caddie who knows the courses really well so I have that advantage, and I wanted to have that conscious feeling of going with the flow and trusting my intuition so I think that’s a great combination with JP’s experience.
I also have my physio Jeremy with me. I think it’s really easy to make a bigger deal of this week than it needs to be, but because families aren’t allowed to travel this year, I decided he was going to be my biggest help. Professionally he’s been helping me tons with my body to make sure I feel good and ready to perform each day, and we have a great relationship so I’m very thankful to have him – it’s going to be a long week and I’m going to need all the energy I can to make it to Sunday afternoon.
I flew out to Florida a week ago because I wanted to give myself enough days in advance to get accustomed to the time difference and prepare. I joined Medalist this year so I’m very fortunate that I was able to practice at a club with such great conditions, and it gave me that time to try to get my mind, body and golf to come together as much as possible before flying to Augusta.
For me, a lot of that comes down to how differently I see shots and trying to get my eyes to look at different spots on the course, because as a whole everything plays a bit quicker here. When you’re playing in the UK the windows you’re seeing are different, whether its long game or chipping or putting, or how the ball is spinning, so it’s reassessing and readjusting landing spots or breaks, and letting my eyes to see the proper pictures. When you are playing and sitting behind a shot your eyes automatically match up with your first instinct, but you have to be able to adapt here and play a little bit more break, hit it higher or shorter or whatever is needed. Once I’m able to see those shots, it’s a lot easier to for me to create them.
I think the biggest difference for me over the past few years has been that sense of ownership I’ve taken over my game, deciding what I wanted to do and how I wanted to play. For me it was a lot harder than maybe it was for others, and it only really started after college, as an awareness that grew over time. I played the Alps Tour, the Challenge Tour, and then got an invite to play the Open de France, and I watched how much more comfortable other players were with who they were. When you’re younger you’re growing and you spend so much time on the fundamentals, technique and training your body and less time on the mental aspect of the game, so it’s only when things start to settle do you realise how important it is to have the courage to decide who you are, and how you want to approach the game.
I’ve worked quite hard on the mental side of the game, and on the ability to stay present. For me personally, I always tend to look too far forwards, but I can only do what I can do in that moment. When I won the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews last year, I was picking out colours to calm myself down. It could be the colour of anything; a flag, a building, a grandstand, whatever, just something to check in with myself for a second and slow everything down. Every athlete will tell you when they feel their best they feel like everything is happening in slow motion, and for me it works because when my thoughts are calm and composed I can channel that energy and let my ability take over.
It’s very easy to think about a shot the whole time you’re walking to it or start projecting what can happen, but you also have to be able to play the shot without worrying about the outcome. For me it’s about finding things that can keep me present, so it could be colours, sometimes it’s a sound, sometimes its touch, feel, or smelling something, just to calm everything down. Really, it’s incredible that some of the best shots to have ever been played have been under pressure.
Sometimes it can be about forgiving myself too. After lockdown I played a few events on the PGA Tour, and I was probably too hard on myself. Looking back I didn’t really have a chance to perform because it was such strong competition and I went there without training, so it was about forgiving myself because I wanted to play well, but things don’t always turn out exactly the way you want.
My dad always told me from an early age ‘if you get injured for three months it will take you three months to get you back to where you were’. I wish it wasn’t true, but generally it takes time to get back from a change in mindset. Some players were able to do it quicker than me and I tip my hat and wish I was them in some ways, but that’s just the way it was. I was glad to have some good results recently, particularly at my first Major, the US PGA Championship, and the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, and feel like I’ve got more confidence and I’m on the up as we get to the end of the Race to Dubai.
My eyes are obviously on the Race to Dubai, and then the Ryder Cup next year. It’s something that’s very exciting, but there’s a lot of golf to be played between now and then. Good performances and good results will lead to good things. I want to play, but there’s nothing I can do at this exact moment other than focus on this week. My biggest goal will be to play my game, and feel like I’ve played a good week. If that gets me 30th that gets me 30th, if that gets me first it gets me first, but for me it’s about playing my game and enjoying the moment of my first Masters.