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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

'It's been great. Weather's fantastic. Course is fantastic': Pat Perez full of praise on first visit to Dubai

'It's been exciting to be here,' says popular American ahead of Omega Dubai Desert Classic on Thursday

Pat Perez of the USA on the 8th tee during a practice round ahead of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic at Emirates Golf Club starting Thursday. Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
Pat Perez of the USA on the 8th tee during a practice round ahead of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic at Emirates Golf Club starting Thursday. Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Recent success has brought Pat Perez for the first time to Dubai.

The popular American, 41, has enjoyed a relative renaissance these past couple of years, underlining a fine 2017 campaign by winning the CIMB Classic in Malaysia last October. He followed a third PGA Tour victory with a fifth-place finish a week later at the CJ Cup in South Korea, part of a run that has taken him to 17th in the world rankings.

That has opened a few doors, both metaphorically and literally.

“I haven't really been in a position in my career to go out from the PGA Tour because I've had to struggle," said Perez on Tuesday, as he prepares for this week’s the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. "Not struggle, but the main focus for me was to keep my PGA Tour card once I had a job.

“But once you get inside the top 50, you can go that route and try to play some more world events and play against different players and see how you really stand up against everybody.”

His Dubai debut provides the opportunity to test himself against 10 former major champions and four former world No 1s, including two-time Classic champion Rory McIlroy. The tournament represents Perez’s fourth regular European Tour event in 17 years as a professional. His current position in the game will allow him to take in a few more, but for now at least the focus is on Dubai. New to the UAE and the Middle East, it's been so far, so good.

“A lot bigger city than I thought it was,” Perez said. “But it's been great. Weather's fantastic. Course is fantastic. Just I've always wanted to come here. It's been exciting to be here so far and I look forward to a good week."

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Asked if he will become a more regular participant on the European Tour, Perez said: “I was going to try to play maybe five total. My main goal is still the PGA Tour and FedEx Cup and that kind of stuff.

"You really have to play incredible on both tours to manage both. A lot of travel, a lot of time. I've seen obviously Rory does it and Justin Rose and a lot of the top players do it. I don't know if I'm necessarily that category, but I've been on tour 17 years now. Never really had a chance to see the world and play other events.
“So I'm just going to really take this year to do a little bit more.”

That "little more" could extend a first appearance at the Ryder Cup. However, Perez seems not to rate his chances too highly of making the United States team for France in September. It doesn't help when the events you do well in don't count towards the Ryder Cup points list - much to Perez's irritation.

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“I won in Malaysia and I finished fifth in Korea and I didn’t get any points for the American side,” he said. “That upset me a little bit. I’m 13 on the list, but I should be probably three or four.

“So it put a bitter taste in my mouth; the fact that you win on the PGA Tour, you beat some good players and yet you don’t get any points because of whatever our committee has decided to do.

“In my opinion, if you win the same year of the Ryder Cup, you should get the points. If you win the same calendar year as the actual cup, they should count. I don’t know why they wouldn’t. But I’m sure they are not really interested in my opinion.”