(Reuters) - Pat Perez burnished his late bloomer credentials by cruising to a four-stroke win at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia on Sunday and grabbing his second PGA Tour victory in a year.
American Perez teed off with a four-shot lead at TPC Kuala Lumpur and a three-under 69 was more than enough for the bulky 41-year-old to close out his third Tour win at the $7 million co-sanctioned event.
After claiming his first title at the 2009 Bob Hope Classic, Perez had to wait nearly eight years for his second breakthrough at the OHL Classic in Mexico last November.
But winning has now become a habit for the Phoenix, Arizona native since his recovery from shoulder surgery 18 months ago.
“Everything is just going unbelievable,” Perez said greenside after signing off with a 24-under total of 264, four ahead of runner-up Keegan Bradley.
“It’s been a lot of work and a lot of dedication and it’s just coming together.”
Perez’s putter has run hot all week and there was no evidence of Sunday nerves as he rolled in three consecutive birdies from the second hole to extend his lead on a day of energy-sapping heat.
He shrugged off a lone bogey on the par-four sixth with a fourth birdie on the eighth, then coasted to victory with 10 consecutive pars.
It helped that none of his rivals rose to the challenge, with nearest contender Xander Schauffele, the PGA Tour rookie of the year, bumbling through an even-par 72 to finish joint third with South Korea’s Kang Sung.
Kang kept pace with Perez through his opening nine but his title hopes were crushed with a double-bogey on the par-five 10th and he bowed out with a 71.
The 2011 PGA Championship winner Bradley closed strongly with a bogey-free 67 but was left to rue a scratchy second round that left him too much ground to make up.
Japanese talent Hideki Matsuyama signed off with a 71 to finish tied fifth with Australia’s Cameron Smith, and headliner Justin Thomas, who was bidding for a third successive win at the tournament, ended tied 17 after a 67.
After pocketing a $1.26 million cheque and winning so early in the season, Perez said he had no plans to change his goals, his lifestyle or his ‘bad diet’.
“I‘m not getting ahead of myself, I‘m not going to look in the past,” he said.
“Like you said, I‘m a late bloomer... I‘m not going to change anything.”
Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly