MEDINAH, Ill. – C.T. Pan’s first time playing with Tiger Woods did not start well. Pan, 27, was so nervous that he couldn’t feel his hands as he bogeyed the first hole Thursday.
He calmed down, though, and not only did his 71-67 put him at 6 under overall, slightly better than Woods (71-71), the two posed for a photo in the scoring trailer. Joining them were Pan’s wife, Michelle, a huge Tiger fan, and local caddie, Jeff Louie, a longtime fixture at Medinah.
“He was super nice to do that,” Pan said. “I was very appreciative.”
Louie, 37, is a fulltime caddie at Medinah who works in Naples, Fla., in the winters. He agreed to caddie for Pan earlier this month, but only found out at the beginning of this week what that would entail. Pan’s playing partners for the first two rounds: Billy Horschel and Woods.
“I was at home and found out from my friend’s mom,” Louie said. “I don’t know how she was in the know, but she broke the news like five minutes before all my other buddies were texting me.
“The experience obviously is just amazing being with the greatest in the world,” he added. “He made a birdie on three (Thursday) and I’d never experienced a Tiger roar, but that was one of them. And on a Thursday! I can’t imagine it on a Sunday.”
Also exciting for Louie was the presence of Woods’ caddie, Joe LaCava, who earlier this week was inducted into the Caddie Hall of Fame and whom Louie called, “Probably the nicest guy on the whole property right now. I was hoping to get a picture with him.”
Woods, 43, and Pan have dissimilar resumes. FedExCup No. 38 Woods is an 81-time PGA TOUR winner, including the Masters Tournament earlier this season and the 2018 TOUR Championship, while FedExCup No. 37 Pan is a one-time TOUR winner, at the RBC Heritage earlier this season. But they are neighbors in the FedExCup standings, along with No. 39 Horschel, and that’s all that matters here. Hence the grouping.
Two people clearly received more shout-outs than anyone else over the first 36 holes. Woods, of course, got the most. But Louie, a six-year veteran caddie at Medinah, got his fair share.
“I feel a little embarrassed, actually,” Louie said.
His presence this week owes to the fact that Pan made a caddie change after the World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, and went with a local as he finished T24 at THE NORTHERN TRUST last week. He’s going the same route at Medinah.
“Jeff is like the mayor out here,” Pan said. “Probably more guys know him than me. It’s good to have a local caddie; more local support. It was the same thing at Liberty National. I just want those guys to have as great experience as possible out here.”
As for playing with Tiger, no one had a greater experience than Pan.
“It’s wild,” he
said. “It’s crazy. Everybody is yelling Tiger non-stop, like four hours except
when he come out to hit balls. Really crazy. I don’t know how he – it
definitely affects your game a little bit.
“I don’t know how he handles that and still wins 82 or 100-something professional events. That’s just amazing.”
The atmosphere just made it extra special when Pan was able to go bogey-free and roll in five birdie putts, including a 21-footer at the last, on Friday.
“Pairing with Tiger and being able to hit a lot of good shots under pressure,” he said, when asked about the high point of the first two rounds. “Lot of noise out there for sure. But you’re just being able to focus. That tells me that I’m much better at that. Definitely will help me in the future.”