PUERTO VALLARTA, MEXICO – FEBRUARY 25: C.T. Pan of Taiwan plays his shot from the third tee during the final round of the Mexico Open at Vidanta at Vidanta Vallarta on February 25, 2024 in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco. (Photo by Orlando Ramirez/Getty Images)

Chinese Taipei’s C.T. Pan is running on fumes and feeling sore in his left wrist but it has not stopped him from making a bold run at THE PLAYERS Championship.

The one-time PGA TOUR winner made a huge par save on his last hole at The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass on Friday to post a 4-under 68 for tied 10th place on 7-under, some seven shots behind runaway 36-hole leader Wyndham Clark (65). The reigning U.S. Open champion leads by four from Xander Schauffele (69) and Nick Taylor (68), with defending champion Scottie Scheffler, who battled a neck strain, a further two shots back.

Asia’s challenge was also being carried by Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama who fought back from a slow start for the second straight day and signed for a successive 69 to sit on 6-under in the PGA TOUR’s flagship US$25 million showpiece. Korea’s Si Woo Kim, the 2017 PLAYERS champion, will enter the weekend on 3-under after a 71 while compatriot Sungjae Im shot a 72 to lie on 2-under.

The 32-year-old Pan traded two birdies against as many bogeys in his opening five holes before adding four more gains over his last 10 holes, thanks largely to some wonderful iron play and scrambling where he got up and down on three occasions, including on the demanding 18th hole after missing the fairway.

“I hit a good tee shot but it went too far (into the pine straws). The winds picked up over the last three or four holes. It’s always good to finish with a par,” said Pan, whose best finish at THE PLAYERS was T46 in 2018.

“It was tough as the wind was swirling. I kept telling myself to hit fairways and that’s why I like this course because if you hit a lot of fairways, you can create birdie opportunities. My iron shots are good over the last three weeks. Overall, I was feeling confident, and keeping it simple.”

Pan is slowly showing the kind of form which saw him lift the 2019 RBC Heritage title and qualify for the International Team for the Presidents Cup that year. After starting 2024 with a major medical exemption, a third-place finish at the Mexico Open in Vidanta last month has ensured he retained his playing rights for the remainder of the season. However, it also meant making four successive starts which he has not done so in recent times to protect his left wrist which sidelined him for four months in 2023.

“Yes and no,” Pan said when asked if he felt his game was as good as 2019/20. “I’m getting there, I think I’m better than before but my wrist is bugging me since this morning. It’s four weeks in a row, and I need to do a lot of recovery work this weekend. I played well in Mexico, got into Orlando (Arnold Palmer Invitational) and it’s hard to give up a Signature Event, and I will never miss THE PLAYERS because I love the course so much. I’m going to go through my recovery and get a lot of sleep. Hopefully get to sleep for eight to nine hours, and it’s nice to have a late tee time.”

A partnership with veteran caddie Mike “Fluff” Cowan, who previously caddied for Tiger Woods and is the regular bagman for Jim Furyk, has been pivotal in Pan’s resurgence. He hopes to lean on the 76-year-old to sustain his title run. “We have a great chemistry. He’s funny, always cracking jokes and keeps me loose. He walks kind of slow which is the way I like it as sometimes I rush into my shots. Overall, we’re great teammates,” said Pan.

Matsuyama, who won his ninth PGA TOUR title at last month’s Genesis Invitational, dropped successive bogeys on Hole Nos 14 and 15 after starting the day from the 10th, but bounced back brilliantly with an inward 31 to post his career low 36-hole score of 6-under at THE PLAYERS.

“Things weren’t better for me on the front nine. But getting a birdie on one and following up with another birdie on two felt good. On the third hole, I got a lucky, and after those three holes, I was able to distance myself from the cut line and play more freely,” said Matsuyama, who holds three career top-10s at THE PLAYERS including a solo fifth last season. “I think if I can play well tomorrow, I can be near the top of the leaderboard.”

World No. 5 Clark is one of the hottest golfers on the planet after winning three times in the span of 10 months, including February’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. With a second successive 65 at TPC Sawgrass, he became the first player in THE PLAYERS history to open with two consecutive rounds of 65 or better. The American said he has simply tried to keep up with current World No. 1 and defending champion Scottie Scheffler, whom he finished runner-up to at Bay Hill last Sunday.

“I really looked at how Scottie has been playing this year and last year, and I use him as someone to try to keep up with and he plays good every week. So my thing is just try to be consistent and with our schedule now too you kind of only play big events, so that’s part of it as well,” said Clark.

Scheffler needed treatment during his second round for a strained neck en route to a 69 which left him six shots back. “I hit a shot on my second hole and I felt a little something in my neck, and then I tried to hit my tee shot on 12, and that’s when I could barely get the club back. So I got some treatment, maybe it loosened up a tiny bit, but most of the day I was pretty much laboring to get the club somehow away from me,” said Scheffler.

“I did what I could to kind of stay in the tournament today, and hopefully it’ll loosen up and then I’ll be able to make somewhat normal swings tomorrow. The way I was getting around the course, the way my neck was feeling, I didn’t know if I was going to be able to continue playing, so yeah, good fight out there.”

The second round was suspended at 7:30 p.m. ET due to darkness with two players left to complete the round and will resume at 7:50 a.m. Saturday. Playing the par-5 ninth, Ryo Hisatsune of Japan needs birdie or better to make the cut and Ben Silverman (+1) needs eagle or better.


PARTIAL Second-Round Notes – Friday, March 15, 2024

Weather: Partly cloudy. High of 81. Wind SSE 10-18 mph.

Suspension of play: The second round was suspended at 7:30 p.m. ET due to darkness with two players left to complete the round and will resume at 7:50 a.m. Saturday.

36-hole cut: 1-under 143. 73 players have posted 36-hole scores of 143 or better. The two players left to finish the round are outside the cut line. Playing the par-5 ninth when play resumes at 7:50 a.m. Saturday, Ryo Hisatsune (E) needs birdie or better to make the cut and Ben Silverman (+1) needs eagle or better. Both Hisatsune and Silverman are making their tournament debuts.

Approximate third-round tee times: 8:20 a.m. – 2:40 p.m. ET in twosomes off No. 1.

Second-Round Leaderboard

Pos. Player R1 R2 Total
1 Wyndham Clark 65 65 130 (-14)
T2 Xander Schauffele 65 69 134 (-10)
T2 Nick Taylor 66 68 134 (-10)
T4 Matt Fitzpatrick 66 69 135 (-9)
T4 Maverick McNealy 67 68 135 (-9)


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