This week’s RBC Heritage was the opposite of last week’s Masters. Seven days ago, Tiger Woods marched up the leaderboard, and birdies flew all over the yard. This week? The scoring average ballooned over par, and the final pairing was double digits over par. C.T. Pan doesn’t much care how his first PGA Tour win looked, though, as the former University of Washington star outlasted the field with a 4-under 67 in the final round to beat a crew that included Matt Kuchar, Dustin Johnson, Ian Poulter and Patrick Cantlay
Pan shot 34 on the front before making two more birdies in three holes on the back as he looked likely to cruise. But then it went a little sideways. He made an ugly six at the par-5 15th — the third-easiest hole on the course on Sunday — and said later that he was luck to make a bogey there after hitting four bad shots.
But Pan responded with an approach to 9 feet on the 16th, which he poured in for a bounce-back birdie. He got up and down on No. 17 and made an easy par on the 18th for win No. 1 in his 79th career PGA Tour start. Kuchar, who finished one back of Pan, noted how well Pan closed out after the bogey. The final three holes were playing to an average of a half stroke over par, and Pan played them in 1 under. The entire back nine was playing to about a stroke over par, and Pan played it in 33 (2 under). He said he hit really good shots coming home.
“It’s something that when I was younger I always dreamed of,” Pan told CBS Sports. “I watched Tiger playing growing up. It means a lot to me to have a W on the PGA Tour. It means everything. That’s why I came to the U.S. That’s why I went to college to go through all the necessary steps to be here. I’m very happy that I finally did it.”
So while it wasn’t necessarily the prettiest or most exciting Sunday in recent memory, Pan played wonderful golf. He made just one bogey in the final 26 holes of his weekend to notch his first victory, and on a couple of days where everyone completely fell apart — marked by 54-hole leader Dustin Johnson’s unbelievable 77 in the final round — Pan was the beneficiary of an open door, which he strolled through.
“[It’s a] dream come true,” he said into the camera after the win..
Pan was never somebody with the pedigree of a Cantlay (whom he defeated on Sunday), but this is his sixth top 10 in those 79 starts and his third top two (one each in the last three seasons). He’s a good player with some staying power. He’s also got a little dough now, too. On Sunday, Pan earned nearly half of the $3.6 million he had accumulated in his career and, more importantly, racked up a nice little two-year exemption on the PGA Tour. He’ll play his first ever PGA Championship in a month and his first Masters in a little under a year, where the man he mentioned in his post-round interview will be defending the first major of 2020. Grade: A+
Here are the rest of our grades for the 2019 RBC Heritage.
Matt Kuchar (T2): Close like a boss. After making bogey at the 71st hole, Kuchar hit a wicked iron shot to 9 feet for a 67 and the clubhouse lead at 11 under. It wasn’t enough to win, but it did secure his fourth top two finish of the season before the calendar has even flipped to May. Kuchar led the field in putting this week in a valiant bid for his third win this season, but that pulled tee shot on the par-3 17th cost him a shot his second tartan jacket at this event. Grade: A
Dustin Johnson (T28): The No. 1 player in the world sandwiched a T2 at the Masters with two extremely lackluster performances in the final pairing at the Valspar Championship and this week’s RBC Heritage. He opened the back nine on Sunday with a par, three bogeys and two doubles (!) with the tournament very much up for grabs. His primary issue? He couldn’t hit an approach shot anywhere near the pin. D.J. finished 68th in strokes gained on approach shots, and unlike on Saturday, a hot putter didn’t save him (or anything close). When you’re hitting it like that in a bunched field like this, a tumble down the board is inevitable, and that’s what happened to Johnson as he went from first to first to T28 in just 18 holes. He also shot the second-worst score with that 77 of anyone in the field on Sunday. Grade: B-
Jordan Spieth (T54): Different locale, different week, same story for Spieth. On the season, the three-time major winner is eighth in second-round scoring average, 194th in third-round scoring average and 208th in final-round scoring average. Here are his scores in those three rounds this week.
- Round 2: 66
- Round 3: 74
- Round 4: 75
So that is, unfortunately for him, right on point for where it’s been all season. It doesn’t make much sense that somebody as good as Spieth could thrive early in tournaments and fade late, but that has certainly been the case so far this season. The grind continues and looks like it will for some time. Grade: C