Bad boy Juvic Pagunsan was grinning widely Monday after shaking off controversies and shooting to the top of the Asian money list by remarkably finishing second at the Barclays Singapore Open.
The Filipino, 33, who was barred from his domestic circuit following a number of run-ins, was also in grave danger of losing his Asian Tour card after slipping to 54th on the money list, just six spots from elimination.
But the former caddie became Asian golf's overnight sensation by claiming the Singapore Open's US$666,660 second prize in a rain-delayed play-off against Spain's Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano early on Monday.
Pagunsan admitted he was staggered by the turnaround, which now puts him in pole position to become the season's top earner with only three eligible events left on this year's Asian Tour.
"It surprises me because I am on top now -- I almost lost my card this year," Pagunsan said.
"It is a surprise. I will play the rest of the events in Asia. I want to get the Order of Merit (title). I really want to get that. It is a big achievement for my life."
The coveted money title is suddenly well within reach for the slight, but clean-swinging, Pagunsan, who dropped out of school at 15 to pursue golf and has now nearly doubled his career earnings in one hit.
"Hopefully," Pagunsan said, when asked if he could now challenge for more big titles. "I work hard every tournament. I prepare for every tournament. Who knows, maybe Juvic can play the big events (now)?"
According to newspaper reports from the Philippines, Pagunsan scorched to four wins on this year's Filipino circuit before being suspended for the rest of the season for failing to properly register his caddie.
The www.pinoygolfer.com website said the sanction followed earlier transgressions, including a mid-round walkout from last year's ICTSI Forest Hills Invitational.
And at this season's ICTSI Negros Occidental Championship at Marapara, Juvic dismissed his caddie after an argument over a putt and carried his own clubs for the rest of his round.
"I think it tragic that the most talented golfer in the country today is given to such issues," the website's editor wrote in a blog after Pagunsan's punishment was handed out in September.
"With a different attitude and approach to the game, there is no telling just how good he could be."
Pagunsan also placed second at the 2006 Hong Kong Open and he said he was so laid-back about the high-pressure play-off, delayed overnight after lightning storms, that he forgot all about it when he woke up.
"Actually I forgot I was playing this morning. I woke up at six in the morning and went straight to the golf course," said Pagunsan, who narrowly missed a birdie putt for victory on the first play-off hole.
"I had big confidence I was going to win. Unfortunately I missed the first putt. I thought to myself 'this is my big chance to win' but I missed it. But I am still a big winner in myself."