We weren’t privy to television coverage of the most remarkable result in golf this past weekend and one can’t help but wonder whether it may have been the most interesting to watch, also.
By now you have likely heard the story of Juvic Pagunsan who won the Japan Tour’s Gateway to The Open Mizuno Open at the weekend and earned himself a place in the field at Royal St Georges and also The Olympics.
That he did so using just 11 clubs and carrying his own bag – literally – has sent the story viral.
For those who may have missed it: caddie restrictions because of Covid means most players in Japan are using motorised buggies to get their clubs around the course.
Pagunsan finds the machines cumbersome so prefers to carry his bag instead. However, to reduce the weight on his shoulders he has pared his set down to just 11 clubs.
"Offloading a bunch of clubs certainly didn’t hurt Pagunan’s scoring and likely made for a riveting spectator experience." - Rod Morri.
Out are the 3, 4, 6 and 8 irons and in is a 19-degree hybrid.
In a rain shortened event, Pagunsan was 17-under for the 54 holes played, three shots clear of second place.
That is a legitimately stunning achievement and one that raises many questions.
For instance, is it coincidence this was his first victory in a nearly 10-year career in Japan or did making such a drastic change contribute in some way?
Most double-digit amateurs would find it confronting to remove three clubs from the bag and while pros are clearly more physically skilled the mental hurdle might actually be harder?
But could it be that a player forced to be more mentally engaged on every shot might play better golf? And if that is true for Pagunsan, does that mean it would or could work for others?
Would golf be more interesting to watch if the best players were forced to carry less clubs?
The winner on the Japan Tour this week Juvic Pagunsan wanted to keep this simple and only played with 11 clubs this week. 17 under for 3 rounds and a 3 shot win is some golf. Shows we over complicate things— Matt Griffin (@MattGriffinGolf) May 30, 2021
It’s been suggested more than once as a potential solution to the modern game’s distance obsessed, more one dimensional nature.
I, for one, would have loved to watch Pagunsan’s final round unfold with his 11-club setup and ‘between club’ situations.
“What do I do when I need 6 Iron? Well. I will just adjust it by using different club,” the man himself told the Japan Tour website.
“On 11th, wind was blowing at me and I had 160 yards to play, and I used my 5 Iron, what choice do I have?"
A 160 yard (144 metre) 5-iron from a touring professional? Now that would be something worth seeing.
According to Pagunsan, having limited clubs actually requires less thinking.
"Since I didn't have much choice of clubs, I didn't have to think too much to choose," he said.
Offloading a bunch of clubs certainly didn’t hurt Pagunan’s scoring and likely made for a riveting spectator experience.
Sadly, it’s unlikely we will see any of his fellow professionals rushing to copy his example but perhaps a few amateurs might consider adopting it.
Even if it’s just for a few test rounds, you might be surprised how little it affects your scoring and how much more pleasant it makes walking the course.