By Dave Shedloski
HONOLULU - Pat Perez is now a happy golfer. No, not because he fired a second-round 63 Friday in the Sony Open in Hawaii, though that's a pretty good reason.
He's happy because he wants to be. It is his choice. He is in the process of becoming a changed man, which isn't easy when you play golf for a living.
Golf will make you crazy.
Golf will make you weep.
Mostly, golf will make you angry.
Of course, there's a range of anger simmering beneath the seemingly composed faÃ§ade of every player, from low boil to cosmic meltdown.
Perez is from the Tommy Bolt and Tom Weiskopf school of Vesuvian extirpation. Or at least he used to be. He has bought into the power of positive thinking, and he's positive that his golf will be better because of it.
With the help of Chandler, Ariz., psychologist Chris Dorris, who bills himself on his website as a "mental toughness trainer and personal transformation coach," Perez is seeking to conjure his inner Yanni. Two rounds into 2013, the 12-year PGA Tour veteran is a picture of equanimity as he stands at 9-under 131, five behind rookie Russell Henley.
Of course, it helps that he's hitting it well, the result of six weeks of intense work on his game.
"I'm just trying to look at things in a positive way. Not a fake positive, but just not getting down, not getting negative," said Perez, who is coming off an uneventful season that included just one top-10 finish. "I'll tell you, it's hard. For me it's real hard because I've done it my whole life. To try to catch myself going down the other way is hard, but I've done at least for two days."
Dorris, who has worked with Champions Tour player Michael Allen, is trying to train Perez to take that positive attitude from the practice range to the first tee to the final green. Apparently, however, there is no magic formula. It's simply choosing to listen to the angel on your shoulder and not the demon on the other one.
"You change your thoughts immediately," Perez, 36, of Scottsdale, Ariz., said. "You find yourself thinking negatively and you just immediately change your thinking. 'Let's get this up and down, lets make this 40-footer, let's hit a good driver here.' You force yourself into an immediate change of thought. That's always been hard for me."
Perez, whose lone tour win came at the 2009 Bob Hope Classic, decided to go the behavioral self-improvement route after a bit of off-season introspection. "I thought it was all kind of hoax. But I always knew I needed to do something eventually, but I didn't want to admit it," he said.
"I figured that's just me, that's the way I am," Perez added. "But I started going over it two months ago and I asked myself, 'What don't you do well? Why do the same guys do so well?' You go over their rounds and the way they look at things and their positivity. Like Dustin Johnson. Nothing fazes that guy. Now I have a totally different mindset. I wish I'd have done it a long time ago."
Perez admits that his patience hasn't yet been truly tested this week. He expected to play well, and he has. Already he has equaled his low round from last season. But adversity is a staple in golf. Perez feels confident he can stare it down.
"There will be a moment when something is going to go astray, and it will be a real challenge for me to stay in that positive frame of mind," Perez said. "I'm actually looking forward to that opportunity when it comes."
Right, leave the eruptions to the volcanoes.
(Getty Images photo)