When I wrote this profile of Cheng-Tsung Pan earlier in the week, it wasn’t because I thought he would win the US Open – he’s a 21-year-old amateur golfer who’s a sophomore at the University of Washington, after all – but because he’s a great story: the caddie mother, the father who taught him golf from books, arriving in the US on his own without speaking a word of English, and now one of the best amateur golfers in the world.
Fearless prediction: he’s still not going to win the rain-delayed US Open, but it looks like he will make the cut by a mile. When bad light stopped play on Friday, he was halfway through his second round and standing at even par, 2-under for the day and one shot off the lead.
One. Shot. Off. The. Lead.
It won’t last, of course (though I said that when he was briefly leading the tournament on Thursday, 2-under after his first four holes). But, with the projected cut at 8-over-par, he’s in a very good position. He still has to play the notoriously difficult last five holes, but, short of a total implosion, he’ll be around for another two days of play. Even a mini implosion would be ok… [UPDATE: He did have a mini implosion, dropping four shots over the brutal closing five holes to finish on +2 for the round, but, at +4 overall, Pan is in T20th position at the halfway stage.]
Understandably, he’s making the headlines back home in Taiwan, where golf is pretty big, thanks to five-time major winner Yani Tseng who has become one of the most famous sportswomen in the world. But no one on the men’s side has made much progress – until now.
Pan will resume his second round at 7.15 am on Saturday, when there will be almost no one on the course to see him. Having covered a bunch of major championships, the Saturday crowd usually arrives mid-morning so they can stay through to see the big names in the afternoon. A few die hards will be there, but that’s it. Even the TV cameras will be pacing themselves for another long day.
So while the realities of his first two days will have created a certain amount of pressure, the spotlight won’t really pick him up until the afternoon. And then all bets are off.