Pat Perez's carefree attitude is leading to wins on the PGA Tour. Here's how it can benefit you, too.

By T.J. Auclair
PGA.com
Connect with T.J.

Problem Area: Fundamentals
Series: Lesson Learned

Published: Monday, October 16, 2017 | 11:50 a.m.

Early in his career, Pat Perez developed a reputation as a hot head on the PGA Tour.

Most memorable was his meltdown while in the mix down the stretch at the 2002 Pebble Beach Pro-Am. It was there that Perez let the curse words fly on national TV, while also tomahawking clubs into the ground. It wasn't a good look.

In all his time on Tour, Perez has always done things his way, admitting at times that it wasn't always necessarily the right way.

On Sunday, far away in Malaysia, a now 41-year-old Perez -- older and wiser -- picked off his third carer PGA Tour win, the CIMB Classic, and his second in 11 months.

So how is it that Perez is playing his best golf now, having cracked the top 20 in the world (No. 20) for the first time in his career with Sunday's victory?

RELATED: Learn some of the game's fundamentals | Check out our golf glossary

It's a combination of hard work and... a more carefree approach on the course -- not at all to be confused with a careless approach.

Watching Perez's demeanor on the course over the last 12 months has been something to behold. Sure, sometimes he still gets outwardly frustrated -- but who doesn't on occasion? For the most part, though, Perez hasn't allowed one bad swing, or one unlucky bounce derail him.

He still looks like the same Pat Perez with the long, rockstar hair, flat-billed cap and funky clothes, but his attitude on the course now is different. A lot different.

"We all know people who had quick tempers when they were younger," said 2013 PGA National Teacher of the Year Lou Guzzi. "Over time, you hear people talk about that person and say, 'that guy has really calmed down.' That's what happens as we get older. You learn how to control things and not let them be self destructive."

A bad attitude in golf can be toxic.

It's a game where even the best players in the world -- and the best players in history -- spend the majority of their time losing. Look at Jack Nicklaus. Perhaps as impressive as his 18 major victories is the fact that he was a 19-time runner up in majors.

Do you think he would have had so much success with a lousy attitude? No way.

"It takes longer for some to figure it out, but you eventually reach a point where you're tired of being so stressed about the outcome of a single shot or a single hole that you realize in the grand scheme of things, it's just not that important," Guzzi said. "At the Tour level, these guys have millions and are playing for millions on a weekly basis. You think you've had some bad luck? Go visit someone who's trying to grind out a life, living paycheck to paycheck to pay the bills and they're happy. Learn from that. It's perspective. You have to control your emotions and move on."

That's what Perez has been able to do beautifully since returning from injury last year and then promptly winning the OHL Classic in November. He finished the 2016-17 seasons with six top 10s and just three missed cuts in 26 starts, good for a final standing of 15 in the FedExCup points.

"I was talking to a junior golfer I work with over the weekend," Guzzi said. "Under my guidance, he's learning to swing the club much better. He's always had talent, but not a lot of swing knowledge. He was getting mad too early. He'd get angry and I said, 'you're just wasting energy. You have to learn to let things go. Be numb to it. Do the reps over and over and get better and better at it. To let the anger consume you while playing golf or practicing is energy that's sucking the life out of your game. Avoid it at all costs.' Everyone's personality is different. A hot head can learn to control it."

How do you control it? It's all about experience and attitude.

Guzzi, who was an accomplished amateur player before becoming a PGA Professional years ago, recalled a time when he easily could have gotten upset and let one bad shot dictate the rest of an important round. But, instead, he controlled the moment and the round.

At the time, Guzzi said he has already won "2 or 3" club championships. In this case, he was in the third round of a tournament and, on the first tee, he stunned everyone -- including himself -- when he topped the ball.

If Guzzi was steaming over the shot, he sure wasn't going to let his playing partners know it.

"I'm dying on the inside," Guzzi said. "But then I gave myself a quick pep-talk. 'React like you just pured it 300 yards down the middle.' When I reached the ball, I took out a 3-wood, knocked it on the green and two-putted for par. I shot 66 that day. After the round, my opponent said that he was more intimated by the way I reacted to the topped shot -- by not reacting at all -- than the way I played the rest of the way. It was one of my favorite golf compliments. I didn't want them to feel empowered. It was gamesmanship. I looked at it as first hole jitters. No big deal. Pull yourself together and shoot 66. That was cool and that was the goal for him to think what he thought."

"I'm such a different person than I was 17 years ago, even like five years ago," Perez said on Sunday. "I'm learning how to play the game and learning how to play my own game and stay within myself and that kind of stuff. I'm a late bloomer."

It takes time, but eventually we all learn.

Instead of looking back years from now and saying, "if I had known then what I know now," when it comes to your golf game, why not start now with a new, solid, positive approach?

If you don't, Guzzi has this bit of -- uh -- wisdom, from rockstar Ozzy Osbourne, "By the time you figure it all out, you're dead."
 

T.J. Auclair is a Senior Interactive Producer for PGA.com and has covered professional golf since 1998, traveling to over 60 major championships. You can follow him on Twitter, @tjauclair.


Try this ...