Chinese Taipei’s C.T. Pan is hoping to launch a title challenge at the Sanderson Farms Championship this week at a happy hunting ground which reminds him of his home course.
The one-time PGA TOUR winner has finished in the top-12 on two occasions at The Country Club in Jackson, Mississippi and is counting on another high finish to haul himself out of the FedExCup bubble in his fight to keep his PGA TOUR card for the 2024 season.
“I love The Country Club. This course is similar to my home course, the Woodlands in Houston, and I love the greens, love the fast speed and the condition is one of the best on TOUR. The tee shots fit my eye nicely,” said Pan ahead of his fifth start in the US$8.2 million event.
“The rough is hard, tee shots and hitting fairways is very important. It’s quite demanding with the second shots as you want to give yourself uphill putts or easy up and downs, instead of downhill putts. These greens can be as fast as 13 and downhill is really unstoppable. Playing smart and keeping the ball in play is important out here which fits my game well.”
Pan, 31, is currently ranked 120th on the FedExCup standings with the second of seven Fall events taking place this week,. The top 125 keep their PGA TOUR cards. In six seasons on TOUR, he has finished outside the top 125 only once in 2020 but his low position is due largely to the fact he was sidelined for five months at the start of the season following a wrist injury.
“I know it’s close, it’s borderline,” said Pan. “To me, every week I’m just trying to be top-20 and giving myself the opportunity to get into contention. That’s what I’m trying to do. I’ve been working on my tee shots (the past few weeks). I had some driver issues in Napa (Fortinet Championship) but other than that, I feel my game is solid and putting is getting better.
“It’s been a wild ride for me. I had five months off and I wasn’t sure how I would play coming back. In the first few, I missed the cut and then finished top-5 twice, so it’s been kind of up and down. I’m just trying to play solid and consistently.”
He is keen to regain the kind of form which saw him finish 35th and 37th in the FedExCup in 2018 and 2019, which was also the year he made his International Team debut at the Presidents Cup in Royal Melbourne. With Royal Montreal hosting the next Presidents Cup in Canada in a year’s time, Pan is keen to challenge for a place in Mike Weir’s team.
“I love team events, enjoyed it very much in 2019. I really want to be part of the team again. I watched a bit of the Ryder Cup on Sunday and it was fun. There’s always drama which is the lovely part about it,” he said.
Compatriot Kevin Yu enters the Sanderson Farms Championship in a better spot than Pan in 99th position on the FedExCup and is shooting to finish inside the top 60 to earn starts in the two early Signature events in the new 2024 season.
“Right now, I’m trying to finish inside the top-60. That’s definitely the goal. Every event, I’m trying to finish my best, trying to win. That’s what I want to do this week,” said Yu.
Like Pan, he was also sidelined for three months earlier this year following a knee surgery. He bounced back with a tied sixth at the John Deere Classic in July but has missed the cut in his last two starts, including the first FedExCup Fall event, the Fortinet Championship.
“Just keep grinding. I thought I played decent at Fortinet but got some bad breaks. The game is feeling good and I’ve been working hard over the last couple of weeks. I really like this golf course. The greens are always perfect, they’re fast and firm. I think these are the type of greens that I putt really well on, so I’m looking forward to this week and hopefully play better than last year,” said Yu, who finished tied 19 here in 2022.