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Hong Kong: Filipino Juvic Pagunsan plans to wrap up the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit title with a strong showing at the US$2.75 million UBS Hong Kong Open which starts on Thursday. The 33-year-old, who leads the race to become Asia’s new number one by US$288,770 from second-ranked S.S.P.
Chowrasia of India, is confident of contending against the stars of the game gathered at the Hong Kong Golf Club, who include title holder Ian Poulter, world number two Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose. It was in Hong Kong in 2006 that Pagunsan rose to prominence when he contended for the title before finishing second.
Since then, he has not missed a cut in Hong Kong but it is a second career victory that the sweet-swinging Pagunsan is chasing after following his near miss in the Singapore Open three weeks ago which shot him to the top of the rankings.
“I still have big memories from 2006. Coming down the 18th hole that year, there were so many people watching me play. It was the first time I enjoyed that experience. I remember I hit the ball really good that week and also putted well.
After playing well in 2006, everybody knew who Juvic Pagunsan was. It gave me a lot of confidence to play well on this golf course,” said Pagunsan, who has earned US$733,298 this season.
“These are the last two events for us. I will try to secure the Order of Merit this week before the Thailand Golf Championship. I’m preparing myself for a big week here. I’ve got to concentrate well.” Pagunsan enjoyed a week at home last week, hanging out with his nine-year-old daughter but still put in the work on his game.
“When I played golf, she would be out with me on the buggy or walking with me which was nice. I still put in some good practice. I didn’t take it easy. The game is feeling good. I’ve got big confidence to play well again,” said Pagunsan. “I’m not feeling any pressure but I can’t relax too much. I’ve got to keep concentrating.”
Chinese Taipei’s Lin Wen-tang, winner of the UBS Hong Kong Open in 2008 when he defeated McIlroy and Francesco Molinari in a play-off, is backing Pagunsan to become the Order of Merit champion which comes with exemptions into the 2012 British Open and WGC-Cadillac Championship.
In fact, Lin will claim some of the glory if the Filipino does go on to make history as he gave Pagunsan a tip during the Mercuries Taiwan Masters earlier this month. “He told me he was scared as he was 64th on the Order of Merit back then but after Singapore, he’s top of the rankings now. I told him to play a bit quicker as his tempo was a bit slower than before.
“Two years ago, he would play a shot quickly. I think he’s got a good chance to become the new number one. He’s got a big lead, he’s got a good feeling. Maybe he’ll win the Hong Kong Open as he’s a good putter,” said Lin. India’s Jeev Milkha Singh, a man who has won the Order of Merit twice, is hoping to bounce back from two consecutive missed cuts at a venue which he enjoys returning every year. 
“I love this golf course. It’s old school, reminds me of the Delhi Golf Club. You’ve got to shape the ball on this course. Not too many drivers but a lot of irons. You basically hit every club in your bag and it’s a great test of golf. “I’m going to be aggressive this week and go for it. I injured my ankle and missed by one shot at Singapore and Johor.
I’m here playing and it’s a new week and I’m looking forward to it. “ Without a win since 2008, the widely-travelled Indian is keen to return to the winner’s enclosure and admitted that his 2011 campaign has been a letdown. “To be honest, I expected a lot more out of myself.
I feel my game is much better now and these two events which are left, I’m looking forward to it. You want to finish off the year with a bang,” said Singh, who finished third here in 2006. Lin Wen-hong, the younger brother of Wen-tang, is amongst those battling to keep their Asian Tour cards by finishing in the top-60 on the Order of Merit.
Currently ranked 74th, the younger Lin has sought advice from his brother on how to tackle the tricky Fanling layout. “I’m not looking at the Order of Merit, I don’t even know what position I’m at,” said Wen-hong. “I played a practice round with my brother yesterday and he showed me the places to aim for and some of the lines of the greens.
“I’ve not putted well all season and have not produced the results. I’ve got two more events to get myself up the rankings.” The UBS Hong Kong Open is jointly sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour.
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