PACIFIC PALISADES, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 17: C.T. Pan of Taiwan plays a shot on the 12th hole during the first round of The Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club on February 17, 2022 in Pacific Palisades, California. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Chinese Taipei’s C.T. Pan took advantage of a cooperative driver to fire a solid 4-under 67 for tied sixth place and emerge as the leading Asian after the first round of The Genesis Invitational on Thursday.

After missing two cuts in his last three starts, the 30-year-old was rewarded for some extra hours put at the range as he pencilled down five birdies against a lone bogey at the historic Riviera Country Club to lie four back of early pacesetter, Joaquin Niemann of Chile.

Defending champion Max Homa, Jordan Spieth, Cameron Young and last week’s WM Phoenix Open winner Scottie Scheffler all fired 66s to share second place in the star-studded US$12 million tournament, which is hosted by Tiger Woods and is one of three elevated events on the PGA TOUR.

Korea’s Si Woo Kim shot a 69, countryman Sungjae Im returned a 71 while current FedExCup leader Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, K.H. Lee and Jaekyeong Lee all posted 72s to leave themselves with some work to make the weekend cut. India’s Anirban Lahiri carded a 75.

Pan, a one-time PGA TOUR winner and a member of the 2019 Presidents Cup International team, was pleased with his fast start. “Driving, definitely driving,” said Pan when asked what he was most pleased about his round.

“I put a lot of work into driving because I haven’t driven well the last three events, so it’s good to hit the ball where I want it to be. As you know, this course is really demanding so if I can put my ball in a nice place, good position in the fairway, always comes with a pretty good birdie chances out there.”

Part of his growing confidence is also due to marked improvements in his driving distances where Pan said he averages 15 yards longer from off the tee. He also started using a longer shaft in his driver to gain a better launch angle from off the tee.

“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.

After a greenside bunker shot to three feet for an opening birdie, Pan rolled in a monstrous 45-foot putt for a second birdie on the eighth before holing further putts from inside of 12 feet on Hole Nos. 10, 11 and 17. His only bogey on 14 was via a three-putt.

“I teed off super early today, 7:13 tee time so the greens were pretty soft, pretty accessible in the morning, but eventually it will get firm so it’s nice to have the 4 under in the bag,” said Pan, who finished T20 here last season.

“I remember I played NCAA here back in college days. I did not play well, so that was a really good lesson to learn. After four or five years out here, starting to like the course very well. As I say, it’s really demanding, the tee shots, distance, the greens are super quick in some ways, so it’s a fun course to play. If you are able to shoot low score, that means a lot.”


First-Round Notes – Thursday, February 17, 2022

First-Round Leaderboard

Joaquin Niemann              63 (-8)

Scottie Scheffler                 66 (-5)

Jordan Spieth                     66 (-5)

Cameron Young                 66 (-5)

Max Homa                         66 (-5)

Leading Asian/Australian Scores

C.T. Pan                                 67 (-4, T6)

Cameron Smith                    67 (-4, T6)

Adam Scott                           68 (-3, T12)

Si Woo Kim                           69 (-2, T22)

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