Pan rallies for first-ever PGA title

The Associated Press

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. — C.T. Pan watched the Masters last week with his wife, and sometimes caddie, Yingchun Lin, thrilled by Tiger Woods’ stirring victory at Augusta National.

His wife, Pan recalled, told him point blank, “Hey, I’m not patient, so you better get me (to Augusta) as soon as possible.”

Pan complied quickly, taking advantage of top-ranked Dustin Johnson’s back-nine meltdown Sunday to win the RBC Heritage for his first PGA Tour victory.

Along with $1.242 million, the win opens a world of opportunities for the 27-year-old Taiwanese player: He’s exempt on tour through 2020-21, in line to make the President’s Cup International team this year and will have an opportunity he’s dreamed about since taking up the game in the mid-1990s by playing at Augusta National.

“It’s a good problem to have,” Pan said.

Pan shot a 4-under 67 to finish at 12-under 272, a stroke ahead of Matt Kuchar and two in front of Patrick Cantlay, Scott Piercy and Shane Lowry. Kuchar had a 67, Cantlay and Piercy had 69s and Lowry a 70.

The top-ranked Johnson, the third-round leader in his home-state event, had a 77 to tie for 28th at 4 under. He played a five-hole stretch in 7 over, making bogeys on Nos. 11-13 and double bogeys on Nos. 14-15.

Pan took the lead for good with a 9-foot birdie putt on the par-4 16th.

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’d won.

“It’s still really hard for me to believe,” he said. “I’m processing. My phone has been vibrating the last 10 minutes. I’m so happy I finally got it done.”

Pan won twice on the PGA Tour Canada in 2015 when he turned professional. He’s finished second twice in PGA Tour events, once at the Farmers Insurance Open in 2017 and last year at the Wyndham Championship.

Johnson, the 20-time PGA Tour champ, carried a one-shot lead into the final round and the South Carolina native seemed a strong bet to add the Palmetto State’s only tour stop to his trophy case. But Johnson never found a rhythm early and lost all hope with his uncharacteristic drop off.

He had a birdie on the fifth to keep on top. Johnson’s collapse started mildly with a bogey on the par-3 seventh hole. It took full flight on the back nine.

Johnson’s frustrations were in full display on the par-4 13th when his approach went into the bunker, a foot or so from the wooden-board facing. He barely got it out, shook his head and tossed his wedge down against his bag.

He flew his tee shot into the water on the par-3 14th to drop two more shots. Johnson added a second double bogey on the par-5 15th, a hole he had birdied the first three rounds.

Johnson waved to the stands on the 18th when he closed with a birdie.

Lowry, who had three bogeys over his final six holes Saturday to lose a lead he held much of the week, appeared to regain his earlier form with birdies on the second, fifth and sixth holes to take a two-shot lead. But a bogey on the straightforward, par-4 ninth — Lowry had birdied it two of the first three rounds — dropped him back. He stubbed a pair of chips on the 12th hole and took double bogey.

Elsewhere:

PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS: Scott McCarron completed a wire-to-wire victory in the Mitsubishi Electric Classic for his third victory at TPC Sugarloaf. The winner of the PGA Tour defunct BellSouth Classic at the course in 1997 and 2001, McCarron closed with a 1-under 72 for a two-stroke victory over Jerry Kelly, Joe Durant, Kirk Triplett and Kent Jones in the PGA Tour Champions event. The 53-year-old McCarron finished at 7-under 209 for his ninth victory on the 50-and-over tour. He won three times on the PGA Tour. Kelly birdied the final two holes for a 67. Durant, Triplett and Jones shot 69.

WEB.COM TOUR: Lanto Griffin made a 7-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to force a playoff, and he won with a birdie on the fourth extra hole in the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail Championship on the Web.com Tour. He denied Robby Shelton a victory in his home state. Shelton played three years at Alabama. Griffin’s birdie on the final hole in regulation gave him a 4-under 68. Shelton closed with a 69 to join him at 15-under 273.

LPGA TOUR: Brooke Henderson successfully defended her Lotte Championship title Saturday to tie Sandra Post’s record for LPGA Tour victories by a Canadian with eight. The 21-year-old Henderson closed with a 2-under 70 at breezy Ko Olina Golf Club for a four-stroke victory over Eun-Hee Ji. Henderson closed with seven straight pars and finished at 16-under 272. Ji shot a 73. Ariya Jutanugarn (73) and Minjee Lee (74) tied for third at 11 under. Nelly Korda, tied with Henderson for the third-round lead, finished with a quadruple-bogey 8 for a 77 that left her seven strokes back at 9 under.

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