The sweet-swinging Pagunsan, the first Filipino to win the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit last season, has been watching videos of The Open held previously at this week’s venue, the Royal Lytham & St Annes, England.
“My friend gave me a CD of The Open at the Royal Lytham. I think it has helped me. When I watched it, it gave me a better idea about the golf course,” said Pagunsan.
“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.
“I only thought about playing in Asia and all of the sudden, I have an exemption and it’s a big honour for me. Without the Asian Tour, I wouldn’t have got the exemption.”
Winning the prestigious Order of Merit crown, thanks largely to a second-place finish at the cash-rich Barclays Singapore Open and three other top-10s, came with some perks as Pagunsan earned exemptions into the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship in the United States and also The Open.
However, it also created a bit of a dilemma as the 34-year-old dislikes long-haul travels. He fell sick after travelling for over 20 hours to play in Doral, US earlier this year. He still finished a creditable 35th, tying Asian Tour honorary member K.J. Choi as the leading Asians in the star-studded field.
“I hate long travels. That’s why I’ve played only in Asia. I just don’t like to sit in an aeroplane for too long,” said Pagunsan.
“Doral was a good experience. I saw so many good players from all over the world. I played with Jason Day on the third day. Those guys are different. In my mind, I want to play good, play well in those big events and step up to their level.
“I’m planning to play at least three practice rounds (this week) to prepare myself for the event.”
With Royal Lytham & St Annes likely to bare its teeth due to harsh weather conditions, Pagunsan is bracing himself for a new and tough challenge. And that includes packing thermal clothes to stay warm this week.
“You need to change your ball flight … you need to wear thermal clothes as it could be cold,” he said.
“That’s (cold) 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 will be in a strong contingent of Asian Tour stars at The Open. India’s Anirban Lahiri, Japan’s Kodai Ichihara, Singaporean veteran Mardan Mamat, Thai duo Thongchai Jaidee and Prayad Marksaeng, South African Jbe Kruger, currently leading the Order of Merit, Jeev Milkha Singh of India, who won at the Scottish Open on Sunday and Australian Marcus Fraser will also feature at Royal Lytham and St Annes. Asian Tour honorary members K.J. Choi, Y.E. Yang and Vijay Singh are also in the elite field.