Victor Perez staying positive amid golf’s coronavirus hiatus

By Phil Casey, PA Golf Correspondent
PA Media: Sport

France’s Victor Perez was in the form of his life when the coronavirus pandemic brought the sporting programme to a grinding halt.

Now, the world number 40 is trying hard to see a silver lining to having his Masters debut and a potential first Ryder Cup appearance put on hold.

Perez followed his maiden European Tour title at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship last September with two runners-up finishes and a tie for fourth in the WGC-HSBC Champions in his next six events.

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Victor Perez is congratulated by his French colleagues, led by Raphael Jacquelin, after winning the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship (Kenny Smith/PA)
Victor Perez is congratulated by his French colleagues, led by Raphael Jacquelin, after winning the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship (Kenny Smith/PA)

That took the 27-year-old into the world’s top 50 and  secured his place in events such as the Masters and Players Championship at Sawgrass, where he carded a first round of 69 last week before golf and the wider sporting schedule went into lockdown.

“Not being a PGA Tour member and having the connections I would have had if the tournament was in Europe, I was a little on the side as far as knowing what was going on,” Perez told the PA news agency.

“I played really well on Thursday and finished quite late, went straight to dinner, came home, did my recovery and went to bed thinking everything was going to be fine.

“I woke up randomly in the middle of the night and checked my phone and saw a bunch of texts and emails and the tournament had been cancelled.

“You change your alarm from 5am to 8.30 – which is probably the only good thing – go to the course the next day, empty the locker, return the rental car and I’ve been off since.

“It seems like tournaments are being cancelled one after the other which is probably the right thing to do.

“Health is far more important than any tournament but it comes at a difficult time because if maybe this had happened in December some of the big tournaments would not have been affected as much.”

Perez, who is based in Dundee where his girlfriend Abigail is a dentistry student, has at least had the chance to play Augusta National after making the trip to Georgia with his manager in the week before the Players Championship.

Victor Perez with his girlfriend Abigail following his win in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship (Kenny Smith/PA)
Victor Perez with his girlfriend Abigail following his win in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship (Kenny Smith/PA)

And he is hoping a possible change of dates to October could work in his favour as he tries to become the first Masters rookie to slip on the famous green jacket since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979.

“Obviously I’m disappointed with the postponement like everyone else,” Perez added. “There were probably a few guys that took years to qualify and then the event doesn’t happen, but I’m planning on playing the tournament for the next 20 years or whatever.

“It will happen, my exemption is still there and I’ll play the tournament at some point and to be fair I might turn this into an advantage.

“The tournament might be on a date that’s completely different than what everybody else is used to and I think it will make the course somewhat different to what everyone knows. Being a first-timer there could be an advantage I can get from it.

“We had rented a house and my girlfriend, my agent and my trainer were going to be there.

“Being my first major I was trying to keep it really small, try to keep it as golf-related as possible like how I’ve been behaving ever since I turned pro, because I know the stress level is going to be as high as it’s ever been.”

Stress levels will also be through the roof if and when the Ryder Cup goes ahead, with Perez currently occupying an automatic qualifying place for the European team due to face the United States at Whistling Straits in September.

Perez sampled the atmosphere as a spectator at Le Golf National in Paris in 2018 and is relishing the challenge of helping Europe attempt to retain the trophy.

Victor Perez was among the spectators who saw Europe’s Ryder Cup victory in 2018 (Adam Davy/PA)
Victor Perez was among the spectators who saw Europe’s Ryder Cup victory in 2018 (Adam Davy/PA)

“As a European it’s something that we take a lot of pride in and something that I’m really looking forward to,” he added.

“I can’t tell if cancelling tournaments plays into my advantage or not, time will tell, I just know that eventually the best players are going to be on the team and it’s going to be a matter of being prepared and executing when it happens.

“The atmosphere in Paris was amazing. It will be very challenging going on American soil and trying to defend the cup, but what a great challenge.”

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