Golfer Pagunsan aims to win Asian Tour Order of Merit
30 Nov 2011 - 08:46:52
Controversial Juvic Pagunsan sits on the brink of history at the UBS Hong Kong Open this week knowing a well-placed finish will all but see him crowned the first Filipino to win the Asian Tour Order of Merit title.
The 33-year-old has a buffer of more than $288,000 over second-placed SSP Chowrasia of India coming into the event and securing the Order of Merit would signal a remarkable end to a troubled year for the golfer.
A good week for the Filipino at the $2.75 million tournament will kill off the race for the Order of Merit, with only one more competition then left on the calendar.
Pagunsan, who hasn't won on the Asian Tour in 2011, leapt to the lead in the Order of Merit thanks to the $666,660 he collected for finishing second behind Spain's Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano at the Singapore Open earlier this month.
It was the biggest payout ever collected by a golfer from the Philippines and Pagunsan, who was given a misconduct charge in September, said he was only just now beginning to appreciate how close he is to making Asian Tour history.
"It took me a while to realize that I'm now number one on the Order of Merit," he said.
"When I got home last week, a lot of people started calling me to congratulate me and I also received numerous sms (messages) congratulating me."
Pagunsan first came to notice with his stunning performances at the Hong Kong Open in 2006, where as an Asian Tour rookie he finished one-stroke behind the winner, Spain's Jose Manuel Lara.
The Filipino returns to the southern Chinese city having since not missed a cut in the tournament, which starts Thursday.
"I'm very happy to be back in Hong Kong. I still have big memories of 2006. I played well that week," he recalled.
"Coming down the 18th hole that year, there were so many people watching me play. It was the first time I enjoyed that experience. I remember I hit the ball really good that week and also putted well."
Pagunsan, who was banned from the Philippine Tour for six events after apparently failing to properly register his caddy, has just one Asian Tour victory to his credit so far - the 2007 Pertamina Indonesia President Invitational.
The winner of the Asian Tour Order of Merit will be invited to play in The British Open next year and the Filipino said he would relish the chance to compete at the very top of the game.
At the Hong Kong Open he lines up against the likes of world number two Rory McIlroy and defending champion Ian Poulter.