Pagunsan targets Iskandar redemption

Juvic Pagunsan © Khalid Redza/Asian Tour

Johor Bahru: Man of the moment Juvic Pagunsan of the Philippines will seek to overcome his play-off defeat in Singapore with a victory at the Iskandar Johor Open starting on Thursday.

Pagunsan said he is still feeling the adrenaline rush from his Monday play-off and will look to make amends against a stellar line-up gathered at the Horizon Hills Golf and Country Club for the fifth edition of the event.

He will contend with title holder Padraig Harrington of Ireland, Charlie Wi of Korea, who is bidding for a third title in Malaysia, and PGA Tour star Anthony Kim of the United States in the US$2 million event sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour.

The Filipino, the new Asian Tour Order of Merit leader, will carry his immense confidence to the Iskandar Johor Open as he seeks to cement his position on the summit of the money list this year.

“It was such a good experience and now I’ll be playing with a lot more confidence. My goal is to definitely try and win this week,” said the Pagunsan, who has won once on the Asian Tour in 2007.

“It is fantastic to be playing in my first Asian Tour event as the Order of Merit leader. I’ll try to keep my name on the top,” he added.

He admits feeling more pressured to perform but will draw inspiration from his tied seventh placing in the 2009 Iskandar Johor Open.

“I still feel like I’m in the groove. There’s a bit more pressure now seeing that I’m leading on the Order of Merit but it comes with the job,” said the 33-year-old.

Anthony Kim

Kim, a three-time PGA Tour winner, hopes he can finally land a title in Asia after placing tied third at the CJ Invitational hosted by K.J. Choi in October and Barclays Singapore Open, which ended today (Monday).

“It’s been good. I didn’t know what to expect as far as my play. Fortunately, I’ve been able to find my game and confidence and that’s the biggest difference out here,” said Kim, whose parents were born in Korea.

“I am having more confidence and believing that my shots are going to go towards the pin and into the hole. As far as technique, nothing has changed. I did work the day before I came out to Asia. Hit a couple of solid iron shots which I’ve not been hitting and some fades with the driver which is nice,” added the 26-year-old.

Kim knows a victory at the Iskandar Johor Open, which will be his last event for the year, will fuel his ambitions of breaking into the world’s top-50 rankings where he currently lies in 81st place.

“That’s the goal. I like to play the Majors which are obviously high on the list. I’m just trying to get better every single week. It seems to be happening. I just need to play better and hopefully have a chance to win this week,” said Kim.

India’s Himmat Rai will make a welcome return to the Iskandar Johor Open, the event which he is fondly remembered for pushing K.J. Choi to the brink in 2009 before settling for tied third.However, he will return to the event this year as an Asian Tour champion after winning the ISPS Handa Singapore Classic in September.

“It is definitely one of the most memorable events for me and I’m extremely focussed on the preparations to play well here again. It has been a solid season for me so far but I’m still committed at pushing the bar in every aspect of my game,” said Rai.