Fortinet Championship a good omen for Pan, Matsuyama

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Hideki Matsuyama plays his tee shot on the first hole during the third round of the Fortinet Championship. Photo: PGA Tour
Hideki Matsuyama plays his tee shot on the first hole during the third round of the Fortinet Championship. Photo: PGA Tour

Masters Tournament champion Hideki Matsuyama of Japan and Chinese Taipei’s C.T. Pan couldn’t have asked for better starts to the new PGA Tour season.

Matsuyama fired his low round of the week with a 6-under 66 highlighted by a superb eagle on the last hole to finish tied sixth in the season-opening Fortinet Championship on Sunday while Pan tied his Presidents Cup International teammate with a closing 69 which was his best start to a new season since his Tour debut during the 2016-17 season.

American Max Homa claimed a thrilling one-stroke victory at the Fortinet Championship, thanks to a closing 65 to secure his third career win.

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A bogey-free round which also featured four birdies at Silverado Resort and Spa North in Napa, California also marked Matsuyama’s 18th consecutive round of par or better, which is the longest active streak by a player on the PGA Tour.

The 29-year-old Matsuyama was delighted with his strong performance to the new 2021-22 season as he looks to add on to his six wins on TOUR.  “Obviously it was a great finish to the week and I hope I can finish more tournaments that way moving forward,” said the Japanese star, who sank a 12-footer on the 18th green for his eagle.

He made easy birdies on Hole Nos. 5, 12, 16 and 17 from close range, thanks to some magnificent ball striking which saw him rank third in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green for the week. He ranked T57 in Strokes Gained: Putting, a marked improvement from last season’s statistic where he was 175th on the greens.

“My tee shots really felt good and I was really happy with that this week. Definitely would love to sneak another win in there,” said Matsuyama.

 

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After two days of being bogey-free, the slightly built Pan dropped three shots in the final round but six birdies on the card helped him enjoy his best finish in four appearances at Silverado with his equal sixth placing.

“I played solid, hit a lot of birdie chances out there which is what I’m trying to do on Sundays. It’s good to be back in contention. We thrive for this and it’s a great feeling to have. It’s a good start for me this season, we’ll keep it going,” said Pan, who partnered Matsuyama in the 2019 Presidents Cup Four-ball sessions and secured two wins from two matches.

The top-10 marked Pan’s best result when starting a new season which he hopes will provide the much-needed momentum in chasing down a second PGA Tour victory following his lone win at the 2019 RBC Heritage. He finished 121st in the FedExCup standings last season.

“Very crucial,” said Pan of the importance of a good start to the season. “The fall events are not necessarily easier but definitely gettable to get your scoring going. It can set up a nice pace for the rest of the season. It’s very crucial for most players out here,” he added.

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Korea’s Si Woo Kim birdied his closing three holes for a 70 to finish tied 11th.

 

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