DREAM COME TRUE: A PGA win was something that he had dreamed about, and his father was owed a lot of credit for his success, Pan Cheng-tsung said
/ Staff writer, with AP and AFP
Miaoli-born Pan Cheng-tsung （潘政琮） took advantage of Dustin Johnson’s back-nine meltdown on Sunday to win the RBC Heritage for his first PGA Tour victory, and become the first Taiwanese golfer to win a PGA Tour title in 32 years.
The 27-year-old Pan closed with a four-under 67 at Harbour Town Golf Links for a one-stroke victory over Matt Kuchar. Pan finished at 12-under 272.
The top-ranked Johnson, the third-round leader in his home-state event, had a 77 to tie for 28th at four-under.
He played a five-hole stretch in seven-over, making bogeys on Nos. 11 to 13 and double-bogeys on Nos. 14 to 15.
Pan took the lead for good with a 9-foot birdie putt on the par-four 16th. Kuchar closed with a 67.
Patrick Cantlay, Scott Piercy and Shane Lowry tied for third at 10-under. Cantlay and Piercy shot 69, and Lowry had a 70.
Pan headed to the practice range after the round to keep ready in case of a playoff, then raised his arms in triumph when told he had won.
He earned US$1,242,000, a PGA Tour exemption through 2020-2021 and spots in next month’s PGA Championship and next year’s Masters.
He is the RBC Heritage’s fourth straight first-time winner.
“Dream come true,” Pan said. “It’s something when I was younger I always dreamed of. It just means everything to have a win on the PGA Tour.”
“It means the world to me. I’m really happy I finally did it,” he said. “That’s why I came to the US, that’s why I came to college to go through a lot of necessary steps to be here. I’m just very, very happy that I finally did it.”
Pan’s breakthrough came in his 79th tour event after only seven prior top-10 finishes.
“It’s still really hard for me to believe,” said Pan, who had won twice on the PGA Tour Canada in 2015 and finished second twice in PGA Tour events, including last year’s Wyndham Championship.
He played at the University of Washington and spent eight weeks in 2013 as the world’s top-ranked amateur golfer.
In 2014, he won team and individual gold medals at the Incheon Asian Games.
Pan attributed his success largely to his late father, who encouraged him to get into the sport.
“He told us that he believed this sport has a really good potential in the future,” Pan said.
“And obviously I didn’t know anything back then. And my dad would tell me: ‘Hey, I want you one day to do that for me,’” Pan said. “And dad, finally, we’ve done it.”
The Central News Agency cited Pan as saying in an 2016 interview that playing golf was a dream he and his father, a caddy who died in 2010, had shared.
They often talked about competing in amateur golf tournaments, the Asian Games and PGA Tours, he told the agency.
“Thanks to my father, I got to play golf... I know that he will always watch over me and I have to work hard to keep all the promises I made to him,” CNA quoted Pan as saying.
Additional reporting by CNA
Pan Cheng-tsung celebrates with his trophy after winning the RBC Heritage golf tournament at Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, on Sunday. Photo: AP