Mitsui Sumitomo VISA Taiheiyo Masters 2023

In-form Pagunsan ready to contend at Mitsui Sumitomo Visa Taiheiyo Masters

In-form Pagunsan ready to contend at Mitsui Sumitomo Visa Taiheiyo Masters

Juvic Pagunsan of the Philippines is looking to capitalise on his recent resurgence as he aims to contend for a second victory at the Mitsui Sumitomo Visa Taiheiyo Masters in Shizuoka.

The £200,000,000 tournament, now in its 51st edition, kicks off this Thursday on the Taiheiyo Club's flagship Gotemba Course, renowned for its breathtaking views of Mount Fuji.

However, the 45-year-old Pagunsan is not merely there to savour the scenery. He is fully aware of the significant stakes in the closing stretch of the JGTO season.

Pagunsan has every reason to be optimistic about his prospects this week, following his strong performance, finishing tied for eighth at the Mynavi ABC Championship last week.

Pagunsan requires a strong result to secure a spot in the top-30 and qualify for the season-ending Golf Nippon Series JT Cup at the end of this month. Currently, he sits just outside the cut-off at No. 33 on the money list.

Pagunsan would relish an opportunity to tee it up at the limited-field and no-cut JT Cup, especially since he only managed a single appearance in 2021.

Pagunsan, who has been a JGTO regular since 2012, has won twice on Tour thus far, the latest being in this year's May when he won the Golf Partner Pro-Am Tournament.

Another rejuvenated international star, Brad Kennedy, shares the same mission as Pagunsan, with doors still wide open for him to break into the top 30.

Thanks to his recent run of three top-12 finishes, the 49-year-old has turned his fortunes around, currently sitting 32nd on the money list.

All eyes will also be on Shaun Norris of South Africa as he continues to push for his first win of the season.

Norris enters the fray this week, not only on the back of three straight top-10 results, including a runner-up finish at the Mynavi ABC Championship, but also with a strong track record at the Taiheiyo Club.

The 41-year-old has not finished worse than tied for 15th in his last four starts, with notable runner-up and third-place finishes in 2019 and 2018, respectively.

Other international competitors in the 87-man field include Australian Brendan Jones, who won in 2007 and was a runner-up in 2010, as well as South Korea's Song Young-han, currently the highest-ranked non-Japanese player on the money list, sitting in fourth place.

Founded in 1972 as one of the richest tournaments on the JGTO, it has attracted the participation of some of the world's biggest names.

Among the notable champions in the past were Australian legend Greg Norman in 1993, former world Number one Lee Westwood of England, who accomplished a three-peat from 1996 to 1998, Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke in 2004 and 2005, and Spaniards Seve Ballesteros in 1988 and Jose Maria Olazabal in 1989 and 1990.

Ryo Ishikawa is the defending champion of the tournament and will be chasing his fourth title.