France’s Victor Perez will defend the KLM Open title he won in amazing fashion last year as he bids to boost his Ryder Cup chances.
Perez beat Ryan Fox on the fourth hole of a sudden-death play-off 12 months ago, Fox having run up a double-bogey seven on the 72nd hole.
Fox twice had one hand on the trophy when he birdied the first and third extra holes – the par-five 18th – only for Perez to hole from 15 and 30 feet respectively to stay alive.
Perez then holed another long putt for birdie when the action switched to the 17th and it was no surprise that a shellshocked Fox then missed his shorter attempt.
That was Perez’s sole victory in 2022, but he finished third in the Italian Open at this year’s Ryder Cup venue and started this season with a win in Abu Dhabi.
Another top 10 in the Italian Open earlier this month and a tie for 12th in last week’s US PGA Championship have helped Perez move into the automatic qualifying places for the European Ryder Cup team as he bids to secure a debut in the biennial event.
“One of the mistakes I made for Whistling Straits (in 2021) was I was in a similar position, inside the world’s top 50, so I had the opportunity to play in America, but then you don’t have the opportunity to score points on the European Points List,” Perez said.
Perez was ninth in the Players Championship in 2021 and reached the semi-finals of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, but missed the cut in five of his next six starts to slip out of the qualifying places.
“At the end of the day, it’s just about playing well and elevating your game when the deadline approaches.”
Perez is also third on the current Race to Dubai rankings, with the top 10 players at the end of the season, who are not otherwise exempt, earning a PGA Tour card.
It is a controversial innovation which has led to accusations that the DP World Tour is becoming a “feeder tour” to the PGA Tour as part of its strategic alliance with the US-based circuit, but Perez is in favour.
“I’ve heard that people say that 10 people are going to go so the DP World Tour are going to lose their stars,” the 30-year-old said.
“You can agree or disagree, but I still feel like there are guys who are going to lose their cards in America. They’re going to think they’d much rather play in Europe for two or three million every week rather than going to the Korn Ferry Tour because they can get 10 spots again.
“There are those players who are going to thrive, then there’s those players who come back. You still play for great money, whether people want to complain or not.
“You’re still playing for millions of dollars, every week, travelling the world, playing golf. It’s not like your life is difficult, relatively.
“It’s always easy to be like, ‘Oh they’re playing for USD 25million in America’. If you are to go over there then you’re playing against better competition, you still make no money for missing the cut even though it says USD 25m at the start of the week.”