JUVIC Pagunsan signed up for the ICTSI Summit Point World 18 Challenge against a cast of local and foreign talents in a Philippine Golf Tour Asia event unfolding on Wednesday at the Summit Point Golf and Country Club in Lipa.
Holder of a record streak of four on the PGT, Pagunsan hopes to make the most of a break from his Japan PGA Tour campaign as he seeks top honors against the best and the brightest in the US$100,000 (around P3.7 million) championship that features three aces eyeing to become the lone two-leg winner in the third season of Asia’s newest circuit and a mix of strong players from at least 15 countries.
They include Luisita and Taiwan leg champions Namchok Tantipokhakul and Wisut Artjanawat, both from Thailand, and Tony Lascuña, winner of the other Taiwan event last month, plus locals Clyde Mondilla, Jhonnel Ababa, Tony Lascuña, Jay Bayron, Reymon Jaraula, Keanu Jahns, Michael Bibat, James Ryan Lam and defending champion Joenard Rates.
Also vying for the top prize of $17,500 (around P650,000) are former PGT Asia leg titlist Damien Jordan and David Gleeson, both from Australia, Americans Brett Munson, Joshua Salah and Lexus Keoninh, Dutchman Guido Van der Valk and Korean-American Micah Shin.
While the power hitters have the edge at the Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed layout which features replicas of 18 of the world’s most renowned golf holes, the title could be decided on the final putt the way it was last year when Rates battled back from six strokes down in regulation then nipped Finland’s Janne Kaske in sudden death to end a long title spell.
But the diminutive shotmaker will be facing tall odds this time with Pagunsan tipped to recall the form he flaunted in stringing up four straight victories in the Bacolod, Negros, Iloilo and Riviera legs of the PGT last June and August. The smooth-swinging Negrense, who dominated the PGT Asia leg at Riviera last March, also shot a 64 to place joint 12th in the storm-hit Bridgestrone Open in Chiba, Japan two weeks ago.
Tantipokhakul and Artjanawat are also coming into the event confident of their respective chances for cracks at a second PGTA crown, so does Mondilla, fired up by his playoff loss to Aussie Tim Stewart in last week’s ICTSI CAT Open, also of PGTA, at Luisita.
Ababa also hopes to put up a strong start and fuel his bid for a fifth PGT Asia diadem while Lascuña, relieved of the pressure to deliver after posting three straight victories on the PGTA and PGT, is likewise expected to be in the early mix of contenders in the 72-hole championship organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. and backed by PLDT Enterprise, Meralco, BDO and PGT Asia official apparel Pin High.