Two off lead, birthday boy Ben An gifts himself a happy 31st

0
90
Ben An - TheGolfingHub
After losing his PGA TOUR status for the first time in five years, Ben An rededicated himself to the game. He increased his gym work rate, upped the hours at the range and added 18-hour fasting and boxing into his regime. Photo: Getty Images

Korea’s Byeong Hun An celebrates his 31st birthday on Saturday at the Fortinet Championship. After ending the second round just two strokes off the pace following a tidy 4-under 68, there are no second guesses what is his birthday wish.

An produced another solid day’s work at Silverado Resort and Spa North course in Napa, California in the PGA TOUR’s 2022-23 season-opener, taking full advantage of the par-5s with three birdies and a chip-in eagle on nine. This is his first event back as a PGA TOUR card holder after spending the past nine months on the Korn Ferry Tour when he lost his playing rights in 2021.

Related: Kim has a smashing first day at work on PGA Tour

“I know I’m playing pretty solid right now. Hopefully, you know, my short game’s still there this weekend and I make some putts. You do have to do everything really well out here, so yeah, I’m just looking forward to the weekend,” said An, who trails co-leaders Max Homa, the defending champion, and former Masters winner Danny Willet who lead on 12-under.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by PGA TOUR (@pgatour)

After losing his PGA TOUR status for the first time in five years, the Korean rededicated himself to the game. He increased his gym work rate, upped the hours at the range and added 18-hour fasting and boxing into his regime. Hitting the punching bag not only increased his cardio workout but also the mobility of his hands, and his golf swing speed has gone up by 7 miles.

The result through 36 holes – An has averaged 337 yards from off the tee to rank No. 1 in driving distance, and also ranks seventh in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee. “Boxing is much more fun as a workout. That’s why we added that into my routine and it kind of increased my hand speed and helped with my upper body movements,” said An, who has three career runner-up finishes on the PGA TOUR.

“I’ve gained a lot of distance. For my 7-iron, I gained about 10 to 15 yards. The swing speed is going up about 7 miles faster. It’s not because we’re trying to hit it harder but it’s the things we’ve been doing off the golf course.”

The Korean, who is making his 150th PGA TOUR start this week, has enjoyed some solid finishes in the FedExCup, coming in 42nd, 53rd and 33rd from 2018 to 2020 and also featured in the 2019 Presidents Cup as a replacement for an injured Jason Day. Then at the start of 2021, he changed coaches, from long-time teacher David Leadbetter to Sean Foley in a bid to become a better golfer, but the transition took time to set into his game.

I had a terrible season and it kind of hit me. I’m like OK, let’s try to spend more time into my golf and see what it feels like to work harder. In the off-season, my schedule every single day, even on Christmas, I was practicing and I didn’t take a day off, unless the golf course was closed,” said An, who on the Korn Ferry Tour early in the year.

His wife, Jamie, who is expecting their second child, is in Napa this week to help usher in his 31st birthday. An didn’t need to say out what his ultimate wish was, and simply cherished the fact he can be with his other half, who has been a pillar of support. “It’s always nice to spend time with your family, definitely. This week my son’s with my mom thankfully, so my wife was able to come all the way here and stay with me for my birthday. That’s all you need, right? Dinner with your wife, your family. I’m just  glad she’s here,” he said.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by PGA TOUR (@pgatour)

China’s Marty Zecheng Dou carded a bogey-free 67 to move up to T11, six back as he began his second season on the PGA TOUR on a strong note after an uneventful debut in 2018 where he missed more cuts than he cares to remember. The 25-year-old ranks second in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green, despite hitting 53% of fairways through two days.