27 January 2022: Chinese Taipei’s C.T. Pan reaped the rewards of watching old videos of himself as he putted his way to a solid 5-under 67 at the Farmers Insurance Open on Wednesday to lead Asia’s charge for more silverware on the PGA TOUR. Anirban Lahiri played the North Course and returned a battling 71.
Anirban started the day with a bogey on the third, but recovered well, shooting three birdies in five holes from the ninth to rescue his round. But two bogeys in the last four holes dented his hopes for a lower round. He made four birdies and three bogeys.
With former FedExCup champion Billy Horschel leading the star-studded field following a blistering 63 in the first round of US$8.4 million event, Pan’s impressive start included six birdies against a lone bogey which left him in tied ninth place. A return to Torrey Pines brings back good vibes for Pan as he finished tied second here in 2017.
Korea’s Sungjae Im, a two-time TOUR winner, carded a 70 while compatriot Si Woo Kim, India’s Anirban Lahiri and Chinese Taipei’s Kevin Yu returned cards of 71s in the tournament which sees players competing one round each on the North Course and South Course at Torrey Pines, before playing the South Course for the final two rounds. Hideki Matsuyama, who won the Sony Open in Hawaii two weeks ago, opened with a 72.
“Five under is a good result for me,” said Pan, who made birdies on Hole Nos. 4, 5, 6, 9, 15 and 17 on the North Course. “My putting was really good, especially on the front nine. I have been practising my putting recently and hope to see more satisfying results in the next few days.”
The 29-year-old Pan is looking to bounce back from two lacklustre seasons where he finished 121st and 178th on the FedExCup standings following his career breakthrough PGA TOUR win at the 2019 RBC Heritage and then making the International Team for the Presidents Cup later that year. With Asian golfers having won six PGA TOUR tournaments over the past 12 months, Pan will be inspired to chase a second career win.
An historic bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics last summer have also provided the spark in his game, although Pan revealed that using a longer driver and watching old videos of him putting have created a positive difference. “The last couple of years, it’s been a bit downhill for me … I’m not going to lie about it,” he said.
“I think I’ve hit the bottom and it starting to go back up and trending again. I just have to keep grinding. I’ve been using my old memories like back in college, like back in RBC, watching the old videos. When I look at my putting posture at RBC versus last summer, it was totally different. It wasn’t as athletic. It was more crouch and a lazy posture with a lot more arm movements and you don’t want that. You want your arms and chest engaged so you use your shoulders to rotate. When you travel so much, your body gets tired, you get weary and you just can get into bad habits. It’s natural and happens to the best of us.
“I also have a tendency to have a shorter backstroke and long follow through. I’m trying to balance that out with a 1:1 ratio. It’s not really rocket science, it’s all about feel and the little things that can make you the worst putter to the best putter.”
Part of his growing confidence is due to marked improvements in his driving distances where Pan said he averages 15 yards longer from off the tee these days. “I switched to the Titleist TSI 2 driver last year and started using a longer shaft, 46 inches and it’s helped my launch angle which is now better and much higher. I used to launch about 10 degrees or less which is really low for PGA TOUR standards but now I can launch it to 12 or 15 degrees. It changes the whole game for me. I feel like the courses I played, compared to last year, feels different,” said Pan.
His heroics at the Olympic has injected him with added confidence. After his podium finish, Pan began the new 2021-22 season with a tied sixth finish at the Fortinet Championship in September and followed up with a joint 11th at the Sanderson Farms Championship. “I beat the top guys in Tokyo. It was a great confidence booster. The Olympics is such a big stage, even in human history. Your name will be on the list 100 or 200 years later … it’s really cool. You don’t have opportunities like that. I’m glad I pulled it off,” said Pan.