Victor Perez trails first round leader, Li Haotong by one in Shanghai after the Frenchman combined with Irish caddie JP Fitzgerald to navigate their way around Sheshan International Golf Club in seven-under par.
Perez was making his WGC debut after claiming a maiden European Tour victory at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship last month where Fitzgerald carried his charge to the winner’s enclosure
This morning Perez carded two eagles en route to a 65, paying tribute to his caddie, JP, a long-time bagman of Rory McIlroy, with the pair’s fairway partnership seemingly going from strength to strength as the Race to Dubai nears its completion.
“It was a great day for me,” said Perez. “Very pleased with how I played. I think I did a lot of things well today and I’m obviously in a great position after day one.
“Obviously the end of the year has been going quite well since the win at Dunhill. A couple of good weeks in Italy and France. It can always be better, but after win, you could go either way. You could really ride it or have a little bit of a downfall from it.
“I did well, coming in here with a lot of confidence and the course suits me fairly well. It’s long. The greens are going to be firm this week and obviously having JP helped a lot, as well.”
Fitzgerald and McIlroy enjoyed a fruitful partnership for the best part of a decade with JP carrying the Ulsterman to four Major wins. The pair split in 2017 with McIlroy describing the Dubliner as “one of my best friends, closest friends, but sometimes to preserve a personal relationship you have to sacrifice a professional one.”
According to a recent report by the Daily Mail, however, there’s been no communication between the pair since the split with Fitzgerald quoted as saying: “At the end of the day, I went away to collect my thoughts and recharge my batteries. It was obvious I needed the break.”
The experienced looper briefly reappeared over the summer and it looked a real coup as Fitzgerald was spotted carrying the bag of American hotshot come gunslinging rookie, Matthew Wolff on the PGA Tour.
Sadly, the results didn’t meet expectation with the trial run cut short and Wolff adding insult to injury when going on to win in his next start with Steve Lohmeyer on the bag.
That’s not anything against Fitzgerald. As he put it, “we just didn’t gel. It happens and I have no problems with Matt. He’s clearly going to be a great player.”
Instead, Fitzgerald moved on to pastures new and considering the glittering CV he packed in his pocket, it wasn’t long before another rising talent emerged seeking JP’s help.
That happened to be Victor Perez, a now 27-year old towering talent from Biarritz. A winner on the Challenge Tour last season at the Foshan Open, his promise was undeniable when making the step up to the Main Tour and since linking up with JP, that potential has been brought to the fore.
Never more so than when the Frenchman held his nerve to capture the Alfred Dunhill at the end of September, a victory that more than doubled his career earnings with a 1st prize cheque worth €732,265.40.
Fitzgerald is no stranger to big cheques having worked with McIlroy for 20 of his Tour wins. With the Holywood star earning roughly $64million between the PGA Tour and the European Tour during their on-course relationship, Fitzgerald is estimated to have banked, with bonuses, in the region of €7 million.
Whether he goes on to hit such a sizable jackpot alongside Perez may be a distant dream but a proven caddie has partnered with an excellent player and as things stand, the sky’s the limit for the latest tag team on Tour.
Stay ahead of the game. Subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest Irish Golfer news straight to your inbox!