Chinese Taipei’s C.T. Pan produced his best finish of the season with a tie for third place at The Honda Classic on Sunday, some six shots behind runaway winner Matt Jones of Australia.
The 29-year-old Pan signed off with an even par 70 at PGA National as he traded three birdies against three bogeys for a tournament total of 6-under 274. He earned 125 FedExCup points to move up to 80th position as he chases for a place in the elite 125-man field in the Playoffs in August.
Defending champion Sungjae Im of Korea also closed with a 70 to end the week in a share of eighth place on 275, with his card comprising of three birdies against as many bogeys.
Starting the final round four back of Jones, who won by five over Brandon Hagy, Pan showed plenty of grit with bounce back birdies after dropping shots on the second, 14th and 17th holes. He made birdies from 11 feet, 13 feet and nine feet on the third, 15th and 18th holes respectively to earn his second top-10 of the 2020-21 PGA TOUR Season following a T7 at the Masters Tournament in November.
“It’s been an up-and-down performance (for 2020) or even in the beginning of this year. I feel that I’m improving every day, every week. It’s just a matter of time that I put everything together to get it going and shoot four good rounds out there, and definitely this week I think I did that and I am very proud of it,” said Pan, who has missed five cuts from seven starts prior to this week.
Under windy conditions, he excelled on the putting greens and was on point with his iron play, ranking in the top-10 in Strokes Gained: Putting (9th) and Greens in Regulation (T6). His first top-10 in nearly four months will now put him in a good frame of mind as he prepares to return to Augusta National next month and the lucrative FedExCup Playoffs which he missed out for the first time last season.
Pan survived the notorious PGA National’s “Bear Trap” comprising of holes 15, 16 and 17, which has been ranked as amongst the toughest stretch of holes on TOUR. He was one-over on those holes throughout the week.
“Just feel like I’m ready. It’s a tough course (here), especially under these conditions. I mean, blowing 30-mile wind out there and the final stretch, if you shoot even par throughout the whole week, that would be a really good score. And I’m pretty sure I did that (Pan was one over) and that’s something I’m going to take going forward for sure,” he said.
He hopes the good times will continue to roll from now onwards following his lean spell. He said last season’s challenges with COVID-19 made it difficult for him to find his usual rhythm and form.
“COVID definitely screwed up our schedules. I always play better in the second half of the season and obviously we didn’t have the first half to warm-up (last year), so I was kind of late on that, and just didn’t play good, and last year my health was clearly subpar. It wasn’t COVID-related, but just in general, everything was kind of subpar and I’m just happy to get it back and my game feels great.”
Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat shot a final round 74 to finish T67.
Final-Round Notes – Sunday, March 21, 2021
Weather: Partly cloudy with a high of 77. Wind W 7-14 mph.
Matt Jones 61-70-69-68—268 (-12)
Brandon Hagy 69-62-76-66—273 (-7)
Five players at (-6)