Washington's Pan rebuilt great swing and made it greater

By Ryan LavnerMay 29, 2015, 9:11 pm

BRADENTON, Fla. – Washington coach Matt Thurmond needed to watch only a few swings to notice the difference.

His best player, Cheng-Tsung Pan, had left for winter break on the cusp of a breakthrough. He returned to school looking like a world-beater.

“Oh my goodness, it looks awesome,” Thurmond told him after the team’s first practice round this spring. “You might win every tournament you play.”

Pan smiled.

“I know,” he said.

The All-American senior didn’t win every tournament he played, of course, but he did rip off three victories in his first four spring starts and four wins overall as he continued to compile one of the most impressive four-year résumés in recent memory.

Pan’s eight career wins are the most in school history. His scoring average likely will go down as the lowest, too. He qualified for U.S. Opens and ascended to the No. 1 spot in the world and captured two gold medals at the Asian Games and became the first four-time Hogan Award semifinalist. Entering this week’s NCAA Championship, Pan is the No. 4-ranked player in the country, a spot he’s occupied nearly his entire college career.

Full coverage: NCAA Division I National Championships

Yet he still faced some internal questions as to whether he would ever take the next step, to become not just a consistent player but a consistently great one. And it all came together over that winter break, when a long, extensive swing change finally clicked.

“He’s really, really good right now,” Thurmond said.

Pan rebuilt his swing after contending at the 2013 U.S. Open, of all places. He moved within a few shots of the lead during the third round at Merion before backing up over the weekend.

After that, though, Pan “went into hiding for a while.”

His junior season wasn’t great, by his lofty standards – four top 10s, including a victory in the fall – as his game remained in transition.

After all, this was a massive overhaul, everything from his lower-body action to his turn to his swing path to his weight transfer to his release. A totally different move.

And Thurmond had argued with him, even advised against it: Why tear down something that made you so successful?

“I’d never say something like that to a guy unless I really felt it,” Thurmond said, “and I said, ‘Pan, I just want to make sure you really believe in this, because it’s not looking good.’

“But he knows himself. He said, ‘Look, I know I can be good with this swing, but I don’t think I can be the best with it.'" 

Mostly, Pan was worried about how his swing would hold up under pressure. Sure, he could find a way to make it work, but always patching it together was exhausting.

So he worked tirelessly at his action, mostly by himself but also with the assistance of his coach back in Taiwan, and the payoffs have been significant.

With a revamped swing and a seven-day-a-week fitness regimen, Pan is about 25 yards longer off the tee. This week at beefy Concession, the 5-foot-6 Pan is easily topping three bills. Once the shortest hitter on the team, he now blows it past his teammates. They’re baffled.

Pan’s physical strengths are his accuracy and short game, but Thurmond believes that it’s his ability to concentrate and focus on what matters that separates him from his peers. 

“That’s a very sophisticated skill,” Thurmond said, “and most people will learn it when they’re 35 and they look back and say, ‘Oh, I wish I had focused on that.’ But he already knows that stuff. He has a command of his mind and a great sense of who he is.”

That maturity was on display this spring, when Pan set a school record with his seventh career title at the San Diego Classic, then summoned one of the best performances of his college career at NCAA regionals. With the Huskies on the verge of missing the five-team cut – on one of their home courses, no less – he birdied five of his last seven holes to not only claim the individual title, but also send his team to the NCAA Championship.

“Nobody’s been better than Pan,” Thurmond said.

Players with his credentials usually bolt early for the pros, but Pan stuck around all four years. His reason for staying was simple: He came to the U.S., first and foremost, to get an education. The youngest of six children, he wanted to become the first person in his family to earn a degree, and that’s exactly what he will do in a few weeks’ time.

“I completed something I’ve always wanted,” he said.

Pan will join the play-for-pay ranks after this week’s NCAAs, and he already has status on PGA Tour Canada after a high finish at Q-School. Sponsor exemptions on the PGA and Web.com circuits are more difficult to procure for international players, but Pan’s stay in the minors will be short if he plays well in his limited appearances.

“I think there’s no question he’s going to be a good pro,” Thurmond said. “He’s hungry, he’s humble, and he knows himself. He’s not going to get distracted by fame or money. He’s very mature, both in his game and with his social and personal life.

“If he was already playing Tour events right now, he’d be doing well.”

Pan’s pursuit of an elusive national title began Friday at Concession, where he opened with an even-par 70 that left him only a few shots back after the first round of stroke play. 

He hasn’t fared particularly well at past NCAAs, either because the weight of expectations (Riviera, 2012) or the course didn’t suit his game (Crabapple, 2013) or the swing that was in transition (Prairie Dunes, 2014).

Finally, he is not bothered by any of those issues.

“I feel like I’m rolling,” he said.

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How to watch The Open on TV and online

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:40 am

You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.

Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie

In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on GolfChannel.com.  

Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:

(All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; GC.com=GolfChannel.com or check the GLE app)

Monday, July 16

GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Tuesday, July 17

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Wednesday, July 18

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Thursday, July 19

GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Friday, July 20

GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Saturday, July 21

GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Sunday, July 22

GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

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The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:30 am

Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:

What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.

What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.

How old is it?

It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.

Where is it played?

There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.

Where will it be played this year?

At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.

Who has won The Open on that course?

Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).

Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?

Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.

Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?

This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.

Who has won this event the most?

Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.

What about the Morrises?

Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.

Have players from any particular country dominated?

In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.

Who is this year's defending champion?

That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

What is the trophy called?

The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).

Which Opens have been the most memorable?

Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.

When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?

Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.

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Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 8:41 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.

According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm each can grab the top spot in the world ranking.

Thomas’ path is the easiest. He would return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finishing worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.

Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.

And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish of worse than solo second.   

Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.