Pat Perez holds lead at Bob Hope Classic after record-setting 36 holes

Pat Perez holds lead at Bob Hope Classic after record-setting 36 holes

Pat Perez shot a 9-under 63 on Thursday.
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

LA QUINTA, Calif. (AP) — Pat Perez, who has yet to win a title in his seven years on the PGA Tour, thinks maybe he’s taken a big step toward fixing that. He got married.

“Everyone that gets married seems to win. Paul Casey got married the day after he won last week. (Jason) Gore got married, won. (Rory) Sabbatini, he won,” Perez said Thursday after he shot a 9-under 63 in the Bob Hope Classic to move to 20-under through two rounds – unprecedented in PGA Tour history. (Friday’s round starts at 11:30 a.m. Eastern.)

And if marriage doesn’t work?

“I figured I’d try it. If not, I can always get divorced,” Perez said.

After the laughter in the interview room died down, he grinned and added, “No, I’m just kidding.”

The 32-year-old Perez, who married in December, was amazing on the golf course again during the second round – and amusing afterward.

Asked about his spouse, he smiled and said, “My wife’s name is Athena, and she is the Greek goddess of war. And that holds 100 percent true.”

Perez had reason to be in good humor. He had just become the first player in PGA Tour history to play a 36-hole stretch in a tournament at 20-under, keeping him two strokes in front heading into the third round of the five-day tournament.

After opening with a 61, Perez had nine birdies during a bogey-free second round and was at 124 through the first two days. Along with setting a tour low against par for consecutive rounds, his 36-hole total was the lowest ever to begin a tournament.

Mark Calcavecchia was at 124 through two rounds of the 2001 Phoenix Open, but that was on a par-71 course. Perez had his opening 61 at the Palmer Course at PGA West, and followed it with the 63 on the Nicklaus Course at PGA West.

On another mild, still day in the desert, Perez’s sizzling scoring still wasn’t enough to give him a pad – six players were within four shots. Briny Baird aced the par-3, 140-yard seventh at the Nicklaus Course with a 9-iron on the way to his second 63 and an 18-under 126.

David Berganio Jr. had a 64 and was another shot behind. Tom Pernice Jr. (63), Chris Stroud (63), Richard Johnson (65) and Jason Dufner (65) were 16-under.

Perez followed his sparkling first round with another day of well-placed drives, pinpoint iron play and deadly accurate putting. He rolled in a 15-footer on No. 7, a 40-footer from the fringe on No. 11, a 20-footer on No. 14, and other birdie putts from 10 feet and in.

For the second straight day, he putted only 25 times.

“I’ve played two unbelievable rounds and I’m very happy where I’m at,” said Perez, enjoying the moment but fully realizing that two rounds won’t get the job done in the 90-hole Hope.

Asked about setting a tour standard, Perez said, “It means you can get hot for two days. I would like to have all kinds of records at the end of the week – three-day, four-day, five-day, trophy, Vegas, booze, all that stuff. That’s what I want.”

The tour records for three, four and five rounds certainly don’t seem out of reach if the wind doesn’t kick up during the final three rounds. The record for 54 holes is 189, a mark shared by a group including Calcavecchia. Tommy Armour III set the 72-hole mark of 254 in the 2003 Texas Open, and the 90-hole record is Joe Durant’s 36-under 324 at the 2001 Hope.

Even if Perez falters, some of the players trailing him may have a shot at records.

“The course is set up for it, the pin placements aren’t the hardest, and the weather’s been perfect,” Perez said. “Everything has to factor in when everybody’s shooting low scores. It’s not a mystery.”

Said Baird: “Yeah, it’s the conditions. There’s the wind; when the wind howled today, it howled two miles an hour. The greens aren’t very firm, yet they are. If you’re hitting a wedge, you’re sucking them back. It’s as easy as you could ask for.”

He still was a bit awed by the numbers, especially Perez’s.

“I don’t care how easy the conditions are or how easy they can set up a golf course, that’s a heck of a lot of birdies and you’re doing a heck of a lot of things right,” Baird said.

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