“It’s a scary thing,” he said.
He gradually started to feel like his old self, and then his comeback received a boost in the form of a call from the tournament director Todd Rhinehart, who offered him an exemption into last October’s CIMB Classic. The decision, Rhinehart said in an email from Malaysia, was a no-brainer because Perez “had supported the CIMB Classic for so many years.” He added, “We have been so happy for him to have such a wonderful year and bounce back the way he has.”
A grateful Perez tied for 33rd in Malaysia and recorded top-seven finishes in his next three starts, including his second career tour victory at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba.
The win, his first since the 2009 Bob Hope Classic, propelled Perez, 41, to his best season, culminating in his first appearance in the FedEx Cup playoff season finale. He is the oldest player in this week’s field and the third-oldest Tour Championship rookie, after the 44-year-old Vijay Singh in the playoffs’ first year in 2007 and the 42-year-old Jerry Kelly in 2009.
“The fact that I’m here, for one, and have done it at 41, coming back from surgery, it’s just fantasy land,” said Perez, who is two-under par through 54 holes, 10 strokes behind the leader, Paul Casey. Perez, Casey, 40, Charley Hoffman, 40, and Jason Dufner, 40, are the only four players over 39 in the field.
“I never thought it would take me this long to get here,” Perez added, “but it’s all worked out.”
Perez is a digression to this season’s millennials rule narrative. Three of four major winners (Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas) are 27 or younger and nine players under the age of 26 combined for 17 official tour victories. But Perez is roughly the same age as James Michener when he published the first of his more than 40 books, and he hopes his story will be an inspiration to late bloomers everywhere.
“All these kids that are coming up going, ‘Man, I’ve got to be that or I’m not going to be that great because these guys are doing it now and I’m not doing it,’ ” said Perez, who thought it was hard enough having to play in the shadow of the 79-time tour winner Tiger Woods, who…