JUVIC Pagunsan hopes to end a long title drought and at the same time prepare a grand welcome for his new baby as he vies for the title in the inaugural Solaire Open teeing off on Thursday at Wack Wack.
Pagunsan’s wife Len is expected to give birth in the next fortnight, and the former Asian Tour No. 1 hopes to clinch the crown and the lion’s share of the US$300,000 pot.
Wack Wack’s fabled East layout presents numerous challenges to players, and keeping focus will make it doubly hard for the smooth-swinging Pagunsan.
“It is a bit of a pressure for me because I’m worried about my wife,” said Pagunsan. “She doesn’t have a driver so I’ll have to take her to the doctor. My daughter knows how to contact me when the time comes.
"It isn’t easy. I had to come early for a practice round today (Wednesday), play nine holes and return home to take care of my wife.”
Pagunsan has not won on the Asian Tour since his lone victory in 2007 and is looking to finally end the drought.
“I think we are all happy with this new event on the Asian Tour and in the Philippines. This new tournament is big for all of us. I’ll try my best to win. I’m hitting the ball good. I need luck to win. I’ve come close on so many occasions but I just need that stroke of luck to win again,” he said.
Like many other players, Pagunsan is wary of the challenging par-72 layout and the former Asian Tour No. 1 says the par 3 No. 8 with an unforgiving elevated green as a “monster.”
“The par 3 No. 8 is very hard. It is a ‘monster’ hole for me. I think everybody will find it tough when they reach that hole. The green is elevated and if you miss it, your ball might roll down the slope. Honestly, I don’t know this golf course as well as the other Filipino players. So I don’t think I have an advantage here,” added Pagunsan.
Joining Pagunsan in the hunt for the top US$54,000 purse are three-time Asian Tour winner Angelo Que, veteran Frankie Miñoza, Miguel Tabuena, Jay Bayron and reigning ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour No. 1 Tony Lascuna.
Mardan Mamat of Singapore, winner of the 2012 Philippine Open, said Wack Wack is a thinking course and does not always reward the long hitters.
“Most of my victories came on old courses and this is one of the courses which I like to play on. You need to have good course management. It is not all about power here. You need to know where you have to place the ball and not just hit it strong off the tees,” said the 45-year-old Mamat.
“It is more fun when you can shape the ball instead of just hitting it long. Hitting long balls is the key for most of the players but I like to make shots and think about what shots to hit. It is not always about hitting hard,” he added.
On the other hand, Chiangmai runner-up Hu Mu of China, 27th on the Order of Merit, believes big drives will be the key.
“The course is really difficult. It seems to be catered for golfers who can drive the ball really well. Having played in a couple of Asian Tour events this year, I’ve learned to take my time when I’m out on the course,” said Hu, joint 33rd in the Philippine Open last year.
“I feel good coming back to this course. I’m familiar with the course since I played here last year. Staying in the same hotel, playing on the same golf course, it’s really nice coming back to play here.”
Scott Barr of Australia is inspired by the victories of countrymen Scott Hend and Wade Ormsby, who won the Chiangmai Golf Classic and Panasonic Open India respectively in the last two weeks.
“Having seen Australians winning twice in a row is really a huge motivation for me. It’s good to see Australians playing well again on the tour. I’ll be pretty happy if I can hold the trophy this week!” said Barr.
The rejuvenated Australian, who is coming into the Solaire Open after taking a week’s break, is planning a more conservative approach with hopes that it will lead him to a first Asian Tour win.
“I think there are two ways you can play on this course. You can either be aggressive or conservative. Over the years, I think I’m starting to take on the more conservative way. Hopefully that will pay a little bit of dividends!” he added.