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Big Play A final-round meltdown by Pat Perez let Matt Gogel win for the first time--and exorcise his ghosts of failures past

Feb. 11, 2002
Feb. 11, 2002

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Feb. 11, 2002

Super Bowl XXXVI

Big Play A final-round meltdown by Pat Perez let Matt Gogel win for the first time--and exorcise his ghosts of failures past

While working under Harvey Penick as the director of his golf
schools from 1993 to '95, I learned that good players get faster
under pressure and great players get slower. Pat Perez, a
rookie, found this out the hard way on Sunday at the Pebble
Beach Pro-Am. After a roller-coaster start to his round--he
parred only two of the first 10 holes--Perez failed to relax and
slow down his routine over the final eight holes, leading to two
mental blunders that cost him the title. After holing a
miraculous chip at 13 to regain the lead from Gogel, Perez was
so pumped that he attacked the par-5 14th instead of laying up
with an iron. His three-wood second sailed out-of-bounds, and
Perez violently tomahawked his club into the turf. Perez retook
the lead by stiffing a seven-iron and making birdie at the par-3
17th but went into overdrive again at 18. Instead of hitting a
three-wood off the tee, which would've taken the trouble out of
play, he pulled driver and paid the supreme penalty, sailing
another ball O.B. right. By then an emotional wreck, Perez
snapped his fourth shot into the Pacific. He loosed another
wicked tomahawk (left) and limped home with a snowman, leaving
him three shots behind Gogel.

This is an article from the Feb. 11, 2002 issue Original Layout

THE EXORCIST Gogel got rid of some wicked demons with his first
Tour victory. As a rookie, in 2000, he came undone at Pebble
Beach as Tiger Woods made up seven shots on him over the final
seven holes. Instead of self-flagellating, Gogel used this
adversity as a learning experience. On Sunday, after
three-jacking 17 to drop a shot behind Perez, Gogel bounced right
back with a bird at 18 to secure his victory. "If I learned
anything in 2000," he said, "it was that you have to play all 18
holes."

BREAKING THE MAIDEN The tallest hurdle in a golfer's winning his
first Tour event is overcoming the immature conviction that you
need to do the extraordinary, especially in the final round. Last
Saturday night Perez said that he would attack every pin on
Sunday. He did, and shot a four-over 76. In hindsight a
conservative round of even-par 72 would have given him the title.

ALLEZ, JEAN! Watching Perez self-destruct, I had flashbacks to
the 1999 British Open and Jean Van de Velde's historic collapse.
I believe Perez would've won with proper guidance from his
caddie. Pebble's 14th and 18th holes are stout three-shotters, so
Perez had no business playing them so aggressively. But his
caddie, Mike Hartford, is also a Tour rookie who had never seen
Pebble Beach before last week. In tears after the round, Hartford
defended the aggressive strategy at 18. "If we bust it down the
right side and make birdie, then no one second-guesses the play,"
Hartford said. Unfortunately for Perez, that didn't happen.

Bryan Gathright is the director of instruction at the Academy at
La Cantera in San Antonio and one of Golf Magazine's Top 100
Teachers.

TWO COLOR PHOTOS: COURTESY OF CBS COLOR PHOTO: COURTESY OF BRYAN GATHRIGHT The author (with Penick, in '94) is sure his mentor would've found positives for Perez.

THE TIP

If Mr. Penick were still alive and if he were Perez's teacher, he
would have waited until Monday to call Perez, giving him time to
sort through his thoughts. The call would have been a long one,
lasting perhaps a half hour, but only a few minutes would have
been spent discussing golf.

Mr. Penick had an uncanny way of focusing on the positive, and in
talking about life he also taught you a great deal about golf.
One of the things he used to say was, "Only one golfer leaves a
tournament with a trophy, but everybody learns new lessons to
make them better." If a player is savvy enough to learn from his
failures--as Matt Gogel has--they become building blocks for future
success. Here's what Mr. Penick would have emphasized to Perez:

1. One mishap does not detract from a champion's other
accomplishments. Mr. Penick would have reminded Perez that he
has already won golf's most challenging tournament, December's Q
school, as well as the 2000 Buy.com Ozarks Open.

2. Even in defeat there can be progress. Mr. Penick would have
been proud that even after the mistake at 14, Perez put himself
in position to win by responding with brilliant birdies at 15 and
17.

3. Mr. Penick would have reminded Perez that, by reaching the
72nd hole with a one-shot lead in only his fourth Tour event, he
proved that he's on the cusp of becoming a champion.