THE last time Juvic Pagunsan saw action in a big tournament featuring big names, he wound up as the top Asian in the field although far from the top of the standings.
Now months after finishing 12 strokes behind winner Justin Rose at Doral in March, Pagunsan makes his Major debut when he sees action in the British Open, hoping to fly the flag for the Philippines and do much more than just affirm his tag as the Asian Tour's top player last season.
Pagunsan earned a spot at Doral and The Open by topping the Asian Tour money list last season, mainly due to a second-place finish in the Singapore Open.
The 34-year-old Pagunsan, who hasn’t won on the Asian Tour since the Indonesia President Invitational in 2007, will be playing with 2009 NCAA All-American Scott Pinckney and Australia’s Nick Cullen in the first two rounds at Royal Lytham & St Annes in Lancashire, England.
Pinckney is a childhood friend and junior golf competitor of phenom Rory McIlroy, while Cullen is a 27-year-old who just this year won his first tournament as a professional—the Indonesia Open on the OneAsia Tour.
One of Pagunsan’s main concerns is the cold, noting that he has struggled in the few times that he played in the Japan Tour.
“That’s a big problem for me. I always play in hot weather. This year, I’ve played a few times in Japan and when it gets cold, I’m playing bad. It’s a big adjustment,” Pagunsan told asiantour.com.
However, he wouldn’t want to allow such a small issue to mess up his debut in a Major tournament.
“I’m very excited to play The Open as it is everybody’s dream to play in the Majors. I’m looking forward to it. When I was growing up, I didn’t think too much about playing abroad.”
Among the Asian Tour stars seeing action in The Open are current Order of Merit leader Jbe Kruger of South Africa, second-running Marcus Fraser of Australia, Philippine Open champion Mardan Mamat of Singapore and Jeev Milkha Singh, who won the Scottish Open on Sunday.
Rose is grouped with world No. 4 Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia, world No. 1 Luke Donald will tee off with Phil Mickelson and Geoff Ogilvy while world No. 2 McIlroy is playing with Louis Oosthuizen and Keegan Bradley.