Tournament article

BMW Japan Golf Tour Championship Mori Building Cup 2023

Happy Pagunsan finds form again

Happy Pagunsan finds form again

Juvic Pagunsan believes his recent win a fortnight ago for his second victory in two years has proven he still has what it takes to give his younger competitors a run for their money on the JGTO.

The 45-year-old Filipino, who just turned 45 last month, made his full JGTO debut in 2012, but it took him nearly a decade to finally secure his breakthrough victory at The Gateway to the Open Mizuno Open in 2021. He then went on to end his two-year title drought at the Golf Partner Pro-Am Tournament.

Speaking ahead of the BMW JGT Championship Mori Building Cup, which tees off tomorrow at the Shishido Hills Country Club, Pagunsan said, "It feels really good knowing that I'm still able to play at the highest level at my age.

"The Tour here is so fiercely contested, as we can see that there are so many young guys in their early 20s rising through the ranks.

"Kensei Hirata, last week's winner (Gateway to The Open Mizuno Open), is just 22.

"These guys are good. The young Japanese players can hit the ball so much further, and their game is so sharp. So, to be able to outplay them at my age is indeed very satisfying as it shows I can still play good golf.

"Also, there aren't many international players able to win here in recent years; the stats speak for themselves about how difficult it is to become a tournament winner on the JGTO.

"I want to keep contending in every tournament I enter, and this week's is no exception."

Pagunsan's best outing at the Tour's flagship tournament was a solo fourth way back in the 2012 edition.

"I'll need to hit the ball well to stand a chance this week. Shishido Hills is challenging due to its narrow fairways.

"Hopefully, I can continue to putt well too. Good putting helped me secure the title two weeks ago. The greens in Japan have always been a big challenge to me even though I have played here for a very long time."

Knowing that a win can still possibly earn him a ticket to The Open Championship, Pagunsan is aiming for nothing less than a victory this week.

The number one player on the Money Rankings after this week will earn an invitation to play in The Open at Royal Liverpool Golf Club on July 20-23.

With a lucrative winner's purse of ¥30,000,000 up for grabs in the ¥150,000,000 tournament, Pagunsan has a mathematical chance of climbing to the top of the Money Rankings currently occupied by Taiga Semikawa with season earnings of ¥35,369,096.

Pagunsan is ninth on ¥12,834,700.

"(Winning the title) That's what I'm trying to do this week. This is my last shot at getting a spot in The Open; I won't give up just yet," he vowed.

Besides The Open berth, all the 132 players in the field will be extra pumped up to chase the other perks that come along with the win.

They include a five-year JGTO winners' exemption, an invitation to the DP World Tour's BMW International Open in June, the ZOZO Championship on the PGA TOUR in October, and a brand new BMW X7.

Also competing this week is Anthony Quayle, who finished fourth last year, and fellow Aussies Brad Kennedy and Brendan Jones, 2017 champion Shaun Norris of South Africa, and his compatriot Jbe Kruger, who is fresh off a top-five finish last week.