JUVIC Pagunsan stumbled with a double bogey-bogey finish on Sunday and fell short of what could have been a famous victory in the 200 million yen (US$2.5 million) Japan Open at the Naha Golf Club.
Pagunsan looked headed to becoming the first Filipino in close to four decades to win Japan's national open, and win the Y40,000,000 (over P21 million) first prize, when a birdie on the 16th hole gave him a two-shot lead over Kenichi Kubaya, who was playing in the flight ahead of him.
But the reigning Asian Tour Order of Merit winner double-bogeyed the par-3 17th when his teeshot found the water guarding the green to fall into a tie with Kubaya then bogeyed the next hole, his five-foot putt to force a playoff lipping out at the last.
Pagunsan closed out with a four-over-par 75 for a 293 total, one stroke behind Kubaya (70), as he failed to mirror a feat achieved by the great 'Bantam' Ben Arda in the inaugural staging of the event in 1973.
The 34-year-old shotmaker from Bacolod settled for the Y22,000,000 runner-up prize (P11.6 million) as he finished a bridesmaid in a major tournament for the third time in his career, mirroring his runner-up finish at the Barclays Singapore Open last year and the Hong Kong Open in 2006.
Pagunsan, who was in second spot going into the final round, had hoped to join a distinguished list of champions in the event that included the late Seve Ballesteros (77-78), Isa Aoki (83), Craig Parry (97), Joe Osaki (1999-2000), and Shingo Katayama (2005, 2008).
The Filipino pro staggered with bogeys on the 14th and 15th holes but steadied the ship with a perfect second shot for birdie on the 16th, giving him a two-shot lead over Kubaya who had bogeyed the same hole.
His third Top 10 finish in his rookie year on the rich Japan circuit moved Pagunsan up from 38th to 16th on the money list with over P21 million in winnings.