Marana, Ariz. — When Mito Pereira sat in front of the cameras in “full swing” a year ago and declared victory on the PGA Tour was “the dream of my life,” he had no idea what career-defining events lay ahead.
Meltdown on the 72nd hole of the PGA Championship at Southern Hills; His closest friend, Joaquin Niemann, was attracted to LIV golf; After months of long talks, Pereira finally made the move to LIV last month.
“It’s fine for me,” Pereira said Wednesday on the range at Gallery Golf Club, where LIV Tucson begins Friday. “I feel good about the decision. The PGA is a great tour. I got my dream job playing on that tour.
“Didn’t win on the PGA Tour… I’ve still got two majors this year. I still can.”
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Pereira, who lives in Tequesta, turned professional in 2015. His rookie season on the PGA Tour was last year. He made 39 Tour starts in his career with six Top 10s. His greatest achievement was also his greatest failure, finishing tied for third at the PGA Championship at Southern Hills last year (which earned him entry into this year’s Masters and PGA Championship) but surrendering the lead on the 72nd hole (more on that later). more in).
But unless he wins the Masters or finishes in the top 15 at Rochester in May, Pereira’s hopes of making that dream come to an end. Even as he acknowledged there was a chance he would never play on the PGA Tour again, commissioner Jay Monahan did not inform his membership last summer that any player who joined the LIV would be suspended from the tour. was given.
A path back to touring hasn’t been discussed and Monahan said last week that the status of the tour “hasn’t changed.”
“I think we’re never going back,” said the 27-year-old Pereira. “Maybe it will but that’s the idea I have.”
And Perera has fallen prey to that. That money will keep flowing in from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund for as long as LIV Golf exists certainly helps. Pereira finished 15th in his first LIV event three weeks ago in Mayakoba and earned $287,500. His total earnings on the PGA Tour were $3.7 million, up $870,000 from the previous year’s PGA Championship.
With a world ranking that peaked at No. 41 last year (he is currently No. 50), Pereira will likely surpass that total at some point during LIV’s 14-event 2023 season.
But for Pereira, as important as the money is the comfort of being around her closest friend. Rumors of Pereira leaving the tour began to circulate in August when it was announced that Niemann would be moving to LIV.
Pereira and Niemann were golfing buddies growing up in Chile. Pereira and his wife, Antonia Prida, moved to Tequesta in 2021 at the urging of Neiman, who had settled in North Palm Beach about five years earlier.
When Nieman left for LIV and then became the captain of Team Torque, Pereira’s career path was about to change.
Niemann said, “I wanted to have the best team I could and Mito is a good friend of mine and an even better player.” “Everything fit. We shared every aspect of the game together, our putting coach, our fitness coach, our swing coach. It was very easy.
“He was the right player for me to bring him home.”
Pereira admitted that his decision was largely made at the end of last summer. But the contract was not announced until this year.
“He wanted to know as much as possible about LIV,” Nieman said. “There are two options on the table and see which one he prefers. I wanted to bring him here and let him know how great this product is.”
Pereira joined in his mind with bittersweet memories of Southern Hills.
The one shot with which he would live, but to his credit has been used as inspiration and not allowed to shape his career, was his 18 Sunday afternoon drive. After holding the lead all day, he birdied the final hole for his first PGA Tour win of any kind.
Attempting to hit a runner low, Pereira never completed the follow-through. The odd shot resembled a baseball swing more than a golf shot and veered to the right, descending a narrow creek.
His comments were caught by cameras that were shooting the Netflix documentary.
“I f—– up,” he said to his caddy. “On the last hole.”
Needing one bogey to move into the playoff, Perera’s third shot landed in the rough. Now he was completely shaken and out of his game, he could not even sit up. Justin Thomas would beat Will Zaltoris in a playoff.
Perera finished third.
Pereira said, “It wasn’t the end we wanted but it was a really good week nonetheless.” “I guess all I could do was take the positives from finishing third and keep going.”
But… “There’s no way to forget about it,” he added when asked about the tee shot.
The question remains, if Perera’s tee shot had landed in the middle of the fairway and he had kissed the Wanamaker Trophy, not Thomas, would he still have been wooed by LIV?
Would he have joined Cameron Smith and turned his back on the PGA Tour after winning a major? Smith did this feat soon after capturing the British Open.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I never really think about it. If things had gone the way Joaquin is going, I think I’d still be here.”
This article was originally published on the Palm Beach Post: Mito Pereira believes LIV players will never return to the PGA Tour