It wasn’t an 81st career PGA Tour victory like the guy who won last week’s tournament, but C.T. Pan is thrilled to notch victory No. 1 in the big leagues nonetheless.
The 27-year-old Pan, a Chinese Taipei native, who was a collegiate star at the University of Washington, shot a final-round 4-under 67 at Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island to emerge from an extraordinarily compact leaderboard, capturing the RBC Heritage by one stroke over Matt Kuchar – the FedExCup Standings No. 1 .
In an event where the winner has come back from multiple strokes on Sunday for the seventh consecutive season, Pan started the final day at 8-under-par, which was two strokes out of the lead and in a share of fifth place. A steady, bogey-free 2-under on the front nine helped Pan keep pace early when it felt like half the field shared the lead at some point. Then, while a shocking number of contenders – many of them big-name players, collapsed over the final nine holes, Pan carded three birdies against just one bogey to finish the day on 12 under, good enough to take the title.
Pan’s talent has never been a question, but winning at Harbour Town was somewhat of a surprise. The historically short, but accurate hitter, has shown flashes over the past two seasons, particularly at last year’s Wyndham Championship where he held the lead on the tee box of his 72nd hole, which he then followed that up with a T4 in a FedExCup Playoff just two weeks later, but he was in the midst of a miserable 2019 season. In 14 season starts coming into the week, Pan had failed to finish better than T16 anywhere, and had not posted as much as a top-40 since November.
The group of those finishing Easter Sunday two strokes behind Pan comprised of Masters contender Patrick Cantlay, in addition to Scott Piercy, and 18-hole leader Shane Lowry.
While not many predicted Pan’s triumph at the beginning the week, Sunday’s biggest shocker came from a much higher-profile name. World No. 1-ranked, 20-time PGA Tour winner, runner-up at last week’s Masters Tournament, and 54-hole RBC Heritage leader Dustin Johnson proved something once again that anyone who has ever picked up a club knows: golf is really, really hard. Johnson began Sunday with a one-stroke advantage, but absolutely imploded on the back-nine, posting a 6-over 77 that plummeted him into a share of 28th place.
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Final Top 10 Leaders
Pos-Player-Score (Final Rd)
1. C.T. Pan -12 (-4)
2. Matt Kuchar -11 (-4)
3. Scott Piercy -10 (-2)
3. Patrick Cantlay -10 (-2)
3. Shane Lowry -10 (-1)
6. J.T. Poston -9 (-5)
6. Seamus Power -9 (-4)
6. Kevin Streelman -9 (-3)
9. Sam Burns -8 (-1)
10. Kevin Na -7 (-4)
10. Troy Merritt -7 (-2)
10. Michael Thompson -7 (-2)
10. K.J. Choi -7 (+1)
10. Rory Sabbatini -7 (+2)
10. Ian Poulter -7 (+2)
16. Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson -6
25. Tommy Fleetwood -5
28. Dustin Johnson -4
33. Luke Donald, Emiliano Grillo -3
41. Ryan Moore, Kevin Kisner -1
45. Patton Kizzire, Billy Horschel E
48. Graeme McDowell, Brandt Snedeker +1
54. Jordan Spieth +2
63. Xander Schauffele +5
70. Satoshi Kodaira +16
How C.T. Pan Won the RBC Heritage
While bigger and longer is better for the most part on the PGA Tour, Harbour Town has been a place where shorter hitters can thrive, which the 5′ 6″ Pan displayed during Sunday’s finale on Hilton Head Island.
Pan essentially nickel and dimed his way into the RBC Heritage lead late with a precise iron shots, tremendous wedges, and a red-hot putter. The leaderboard was replete with players who could not stop tripping over themselves, but Pan easily made the fewest mistakes in the field, as a bogey-6 on the par-5 15th was his only blemish of the day. Pan immediately bounced back with a birdie on No. 16 and then finished par-par.
Knowing he needed just a par on the final hole to stay ahead of the recently rejuvenated Kuchar, Pan was able to push away the painful memories of his 72nd hole disaster at last year’s Wyndham Championship. A pristine approach shot into the green, put Pan in a position where he would win with a two-putt from inside 20 feet. His birdie attempt lipped out, and a tap-in meant a title.
For the week, Pan finished tied for second in the field in total birdies, while also ranking inside the top 7 in strokes gained: approach-the-green and strokes gained: putting, a huge reason why he led the field in strokes gained: total. Most impressively, Pan needed just 47 putts over his final 36 holes.
What It Means For C.T. Pan
Not only did the victory knock Pan out of his frustrating 2019 slump, it qualified him for the two major championships he has never played, as he’s now in the field for next month’s PGA Championship and next year’s Masters.
The win seals his Tour card for the next two and a half years, but just for good measure, he moved from 113th to 26th in the FedExCup standings, guaranteeing a final position well inside the top 25 and giving him a great shot at getting to play East Lake for the final round of the FedExCup Playoffs.
Pan was also 113th in the Official World Golf Rankings, but rocketed all the way to 55th, by far the best position of his career. He now finds himself sandwiched between two other Asian golf stars, Si Woo Kim (No. 54) and Byeong Hun An (No. 56).
Not even the world’s best golfers in the world are completely invulnerable to a late-event collapse (see: Molinari, Francesco), but what happened to world No. 1 Dustin Johnson Sunday on Hilton Head Island was absolutely shocking.
Johnson, a 12-year-pro who is currently riding an incredible streak of 12 consecutive seasons with at least once victory, had been in the the midst of another phenomenal year. The owner of the Tour’s second-best scoring average won the WGC-Mexico Championship back in February, and coming into the week, he’d posted six top-10s in just nine starts, including a runner-up finish to Tiger Woods at The Masters one week ago.
DJ held the solo 54-hole lead at the RBC Heritage, and combined with his profile, he was a heavy favorite to take home yet another trophy.
DJ started his Sunday round solidly, with a birdie and five pars over his first six holes. After a bogey on No. 7, he made the turn in a pedestrian even-par, but it still appeared to be his tournament to lose.
That is when he lost it.
One of the worst single-event stretches of play in his career, Johnson plummeted out of the lead with a hat trick of bogeys on Nos. 11, 12, and 13, which he immediately followed up with double-bogeys on the next two holes, Nos. 14 and 15.
A final-hole birdie made his round look just slightly better, but the damage had been long-done: Johnson’s final-round 77 tied for the second-worst score of anyone in the Sunday field.
Scoring did not come easy at Harbour Town this week, but in addition to Pan, a few players in the field were able to knock the trend and shine on Sunday.
The lowest round of the day came from J.T. Poston. The 25-year-old North Carolina native shot a bogey-free 5-under 66 in round four, which allowed him to jump from 27th place to T6, his best finish of the season.
The only man in the field to see a larger rise in his final standing was two-time Tour winner Kevin Na. Like Dustin Johnson, Na made the turn at even-par, but Na put together his best golf of the week on the back nine, carding five birdies on his way to a 4-under 67. Na rose 24 positions up the final leaderboard, finishing in a tie for 10th.
Matching the 67 posted by Na and Kuchar was Ireland’s Seamus Power. In the midst of an atrocious season where he had made just four cuts in 15 starts entering the week, the 32-year-old put together easily his best week of the season, with three rounds of 68 or better.
Power saved his best for Sunday, carding five birdies to just one bogey, which allowed him to finish in a tie for 6th place, something that should go a long way for a player with a tenuous hold on his PGA Tour card.
DJ had the highest-profile collapse on Sunday, but was far from the only player to struggle on Sunday. Ian Poulter squandered a late four-shot lead at this event a year ago, and for the second straight year, the popular Brit was unable to emerge victorious from Sunday contention.
Poulter came into Sunday in second place, just one stroke out of the lead, but could not get much of anything going in round four, fading quickly with three front-nine bogeys.
On the back nine, Poulter carded just a single birdie, which was cancelled out by an earlier bogey, and Poulter ended up shooting a 2-over 73 to fall into a tie for 10th.
Emiliano Grillo had made headlines with a Friday albatross, and a fifth place through three rounds, he was just two strokes back in his quest for a second career PGA Tour victory. Grillo was awful on Sunday, carding just one birdie on his way to a 5-over 76, which dropped him into a share of 33rd place.
The nightmare season of Jordan Spieth continued on Sunday. A Saturday 74 knocked him out of contention as he attempts to re-find his previously elite game, but he was even worse on Sunday, shooting a 4-over 75 to finish T54. The former World No. 1 and PGA Tour Player of the Year has yet to post a top-20 on the season.
The worst round on Sunday, by far, came from the man who won the RBC Heritage just a year ago. Satoshi Kodaira was all out of sorts in the final round of his championship defense, as his final scorecard included six bogeys and two triple-bogeys. His abysmal 11-over 82 was five strokes worse than the next highest-round in the field, and at 16-over-par for the week, Kodaira finished dead last among those who made the cut, nine strokes behind the trio that finished second-to-last.
“I’m still processing it. It’s been a lot. I miss everything. I’m very happy… Probably the best weekend I’ve had… My family just means everything to me. I just want to go back and celebrate.”
– C.T. Pan, RBC Heritage Champion