U.S. Open champion Yuka Saso is golf’s leading figure in the Philippines and is expected the world over to win a medal at the Tokyo Olympics.
However, her male counterpart, the journeyman Juvic Pagunsan, wanted to prove that he is more than just a domestic hero, but could join the likes of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, and Rory McIlroy as among the world’s best in this sport.
Pagunsan, the Philippine contingent’s oldest Olympian and a household name among local golf afficionados but a total unknown in the PGA Circuit, opened a pleasant Round 1 of men’s golf with an impressive 5-under par (66), putting him to a joint fifth place Thursday at the Kasumigaseki Country Club in Saitama.
The 48th seed and world number 216 took off in the very first hole with an easy five-foot birdie.
A bogey at the par-3 Hole 4 was his only blemish as he roared bogey-less at the back nine, scoring three birdies.
Pagunsan salvaged his standing by wedging a bunker shot in the 18th hole, making it past the pond hazard right on the green, where he capped his day with a par.
Pagunsan, the 2021 Mizuno open, is tied at fifth with Joachim Hansen of Denmark and Jhonattan Vegas of Venezuela.
He leads medal favorites McIlroy and reigning Master’s champion Hideki Matsuyama, who are three strokes behind at two-under par (69).
Unlikely leader Sepp Straka leads the field with an eight-under par (63).
Special thanks to Cedelf Tupas for helping us secure photo of Mr. Pagunsan