With his go-for-broke attitude, Frenchman shoots 67 in bid for potential $5 million payday at European Tour's season finale
Victor Perez realizes that he has nothing to lose and everything to gain this week, and he is playing accordingly.
“The position I’m in, I have nothing to lose,” said Perez, who ranks sixth on the Race to Dubai standings and must win the $3 million first-place prize this week and have some help in front of him to have a shot at the season title and its $2 million bonus. “It’s a matter of making a lot of birdies.”
Perez made six birdies in the opening round over Jumeirah Golf Estates’ Earth Course, stumbling only with a bogey on the par-3 fourth hole. Perez, who played college golf in 2011-15 at New Mexico, is looking for his second victory on the European Tour. He had risen to a career-high No. 34 in the world ranking with a runner-up finish at the BMW PGA in October and now ranks 37th.
“I’m doing everything fairly well but obviously making a few putts,” he said. “I’m obviously very pleased.”
South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen, who ranks 14th in the Race to Dubai, England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick (16th), the 2016 champion, and Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre (22nd) trailed Perez by one stroke, at 4-under 68.
England’s Tommy Fleetwood, who ranks second in the season standings, was among a group tied at 3-under 69. England’s Tyrrell Hatton, Germany’s Martin Kaymer and Finland’s Sami Valimaki also shot 69s.
Patrick Reed, who is No. 1 in the Race to Dubai and bidding to become the first American to win the European Tour’s season title, stood three strokes off the pace after a bogey-free first day, tied for ninth with Sweden’s Henrik Stenson at 2-under 70. Stenson won Europe’s Tour Championship in 2013 and 2014.
South Africa’s Christiaan Bezuidenhout, who surged to No. 5 in the Race to Dubai after winning consecutive tournaments in the past two weeks in his homeland, shot 1-under 71.
American Collin Morikawa, the reigning PGA champion who is third in the season standings, shot 72 and was tied for 26th in the 65-man field.
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