C.T. Pan Secures First PGA Tour Victory at Harbour Town
C.T. PAN drew on the bitter disappointment he endured when finishing second at the Wyndham Championship last year to secure his first PGA Tour victory at the RBC Heritage at the magnificent Harbour Town links.
Pan hit his final drive out of bounds at the Wyndham, ended up making a double bogey and handed the title to Brandt Snedeker, who birdied the same hole and enjoyed the ninth victory of his career. But when the chance came along again, Pan was ready and this time he took it. He had struggled during the third round on Saturday and arrived at the course more than four hours ahead of his tee time to work on his game and ensure that he was ready to go.
On a tough afternoon, the 27-year-old from Chinese Taipei kept his nerve, took the lead on the 16th hole with a birdie and then parred the last two holes to sign for a 67. It took him to 12 under par and was good enough for a one-shot victory over Matt Kuchar, a former winner of this tournament. Kuchar’s performance was good enough to extend his lead at the top of the FedEx Cup standings as he continues to enjoy the most remarkable season of his career.
Irishman Shane Lowry, who led after both the first two rounds, finished in a tie for third, two back, after a 70. World No 1 Dustin Johnson was one ahead going into the final round but ended up eight behind after a dreadful 77, with Ian Poulter seven under after a 73 - it is the second year on the trot that Poulter has faded in the final round after having a great chance to win this tournament.
The gusting winds of earlier in the event had reduced to a stiff breeze at Hilton Head on Sunday and in the early stages of Johnson's round, four other players had joined him at 10 under. Lowry made three birdies in his first six holes to open a two-shot lead, but missed a short par putt at the ninth and then took four from the left of the 12th green for a double bogey to slip three behind.
Kuchar, winner in 2014, holed an eight-foot birdie putt at the last to set the target at 11 under but Pan, making his 79th start on the PGA Tour, calmly parred his final two holes to remain at 12 under. It left Lowry, in the penultimate group, needing to hole his second shot from 180 yards at the 460-yard par four 18th to tie, but he finished with a par.
Johnson dropped seven shots in five holes on the back nine and finished in a tie for 28th, while Poulter shared 10th after making only two birdies.
After securing his victory, Pan acknowledged that the near-miss last year played a big part in his victory. “It definitely changed my perception on the last couple of holes down the stretch of what I should do,” he said. “The last three holes I would say I played really well here, a lot of good shots just because I told myself I need to focus on the details, the little things, and just stay in present. … And that's something I didn't do at Wyndham.”
Pan said he arrived at the course at 9am - fully four-and-a-half hours before his tee time – to work out some kinks in his swing after an adventurous third-round 69 that included six birdies, four bogeys, an eagle and a double bogey.
“My wife was not happy with my round,” Pan said with a smile. “It was too colourful for her.”
Michelle Pan was not at Harbour Town to share in her husband’s success as she was in Houston serving as the host of the at the C.T. Pan Junior Championship. The AJGA event concluded on Saturday and Pan was thrilled to find out that one of the 10 aspiring golfers he brought over from Chinese Taipei won the girls division.
“So, this is one of the best weekends that I've ever had,” Pan said.
1996: Hit his first shot in Chinese Taipei at 5 years old ?????— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) April 22, 2019
2006: Moved to America ????????
2019: First win on TOUR @RBC_Heritage ????
What a journey it's been for @CTPanGolf.#LiveUnderPar pic.twitter.com/SrdJbVaAL4
Pan, who honed the skills that earned him a scholarship to the University of Washington on the AJGA circuit from 2007-2010, had planned to be there, too. But he hadn’t finished higher than 42nd in his nine previous starts, and Michelle urged her husband to play in Hilton Head instead.
“Just listen to your wife and you will have a good life,” Pan said.
The win has opened a lot of doors for Pan, who joins T.C. Chen as the only players from Chinese Taipei to win a PGA Tour event – and the first in 32 years. He’s much closer to his goal of playing in the season-ending Tour Championship after finishing 35th and 88th in his first two seasons.
He has also secured an invitation to the 2020 Masters at Augusta National. He and Michelle watched every shot of this year’s Masters on TV. And he also moves a step closer to securing a spot on Ernie Els team for the Presidents Cup. “It would be my biggest honour to play under Captain Els,” he said. “Back home in Taiwan, I mean, we don't have a Ryder Cup in Asia. And I just feel it's kind of unfortunate for the golf fans back home in Asia. But I think the Presidents Cup will be something like that. And it will inspire more kids to play golf or inspire more people to follow golf.”
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