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Pat Perez is one shot off lead at British Open, on a major course that he likes

Pat Perez has seen a lot in his career as a professional golfer, but this is something new.

The San Diego native is one shot off the lead after two rounds of the British Open — and he’s joined at five under par by Xander Schauffele of La Jolla, who shot a 66 on Friday, including four birdies and an eagle.

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“The best part for me is no one thinks I can win,” said Perez, 42, who is in a three-way tie for third at the midway point, a stroke behind co-leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner. “For me, that makes it easier to play. I don’t have pressure. I’m not Rory [McIlroy] and Tiger [Woods] and these guys that have won so many times, and they have the pressure of winning more of them.”

Perez, who grew up in San Diego and attended Torrey Pines High, is playing in his 25th major championship and has one top-10 finish, at the 2005 PGA Championship. This is his third British Open since finishing tied for 20th in 2007. He missed the cut his two other times, in 2008 and last year.

Schauffele won twice on the PGA Tour in 2017, and finished tied for fifth in the U.S. Open at Erin Hills. He had a sixth-place finish at Shinnecock Hills last month.

Perez’s biggest problem with majors? The courses typically set up for the big hitters, and he isn’t one of them.

“I don’t hit it that long,” he said. “I never have. You know, when I got to Erin Hills and Shinnecock, there was no prayer. I mean, I knew it. A 7,500-yard par 70, what am I going to do there?”

Perez finished 36th in the U.S. Open this year, and 10 years ago.

“That was the ultimate win for me,” he said. “The fact I was even there and made the cut, I thought that was fantastic.”

He did a lot more than that Friday, playing bogey-free golf through the first 17 holes, with two birdies on the front and two on the back. On No. 18, he wound up in a fairway bunker and bogeyed to drop a shot off the lead.

“I don’t put any extra pressure on me, because it’s still very hard,” he said. “It only takes hitting in three bunkers, and you’re over par immediately. I just happened to be out of them except for 18.”

What makes Carnoustie special for him is it’s not a course that requires exceptional power, especially with soft greens that hold the ball and dry fairways that don’t. At this year’s U.S. Open, the greens were so fast and tricky they were at times unfair.

“I’ve played here numerous times,” he said. “I play the Dunhill. There’s something about this place that I think is fantastic. It’s hard enough that I don’t feel like I have to hit perfect shots. That’s the best. Greens, you can kind of miss a shot and it won’t run off and go off the green 40 yards. You’re still kind of on the green. You can putt. You can have a 60-footer and actually think about making it because of the speed.”

It helped his cause that he got the better end of the draw Friday, missing most of the rain and playing in the afternoon, when the clouds parted and the sun broke through.

He particularly appreciates the fans.

“When I went to St. Andrews in '05, I didn't like it because it was cold and terrible and this and that,” he said. “Over the years, I've really learned to like to come over here. Plus the fans are so awesome here. They know a good shot. They don't laugh at you if you hit a bad shot.

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“They know that it's hard. The knowledge of those people is just phenomenal. That's what also makes it so special. You don't have drunk guys out in the bushes making fun of you. I mean, they're really knowledgeable. It's enjoyable to play here because, when they clap, they actually mean it, not just clapping to clap. That's what makes it really special.”

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