John Catlin clinches Irish Open title with final round 64

American beat Aaron Rai to claim second win with impressive final round at Galgorm

John Catlin poses with the trophy following his victory at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort in Ballymena, United Kingdom. Photo: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

John Catlin poses with the trophy following his victory at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort in Ballymena, United Kingdom. Photo: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

 

In these strangest of times, John Catlin, a globetrotting American who has broadened his horizons to reach new boundaries, did what has become normal for him: he has discovered the art of winning during lockdown, and he added the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open to his curriculum vitae with a fine performance at Galgorm Castle outside Ballymena, Co Antrim.

While morning frost and heavy fog disrupted the final day’s play, Catlin – a 29-year-old Californian who lifted the Andalucia Masters at Valderrama for his breakthrough European Tour win just three weeks ago – finished with three birdies in his final four holes for a closing 64, a total of 10-under-par 270 and a two strokes winning margin over Englishman Aaron Rai. Catlin collected the winner’s cheque for €199,750.

For the home contingent, it proved to be a hugely disappointing weekend. The honour of finishing as leading Irishman went to Jonny Caldwell, but he was a distant tied-54th and far removed from the comings and goings of the back nine where Catlin’s play ultimately separated him from a list of potential winners that, apart from Rai, also featured Jazz Janewattananond and Oscar Lengden.

Army golf

But Janewattananond’s quest for victory came unstuck with a double-bogey on the 14th and a bogey two holes later at the 16th while Lengden played army golf off the tee, his shots either going left or right and he was forced to rely on his shortgame wizardry, which eventually proved too demanding a task.

So it was that Catlin – ranked 230th in the world prior to his win in Andalucia, ranked 138th at the start of the Irish Open, and projected to leap inside the top-80 with this latest victory – produced the sort of grandstanding golf that produces champions: he hit a 52 degree wedge to set up birdie on the 15th, choked down on a pitching wedge to set up another birdie on the 16th and then bravely hit a 3-wood from 268 yards to the middle of the green on the Par 5 18th, two-putting for another birdie.

Behind him, Rai – seeking a wire-to-wire win – showed his own shot-making with a lovely birdie on the 17th, hitting his wedge approach to four feet, to move to nine-under. On the 18th, he produced a superb drive to find the fairway and, like Catlin, had 3-wood in hand for his approach from 265 yards. He needed a birdie to force a play-off, an eagle to win outright.

Rai’s chaces came to an end in the heavy rough to the left of the 18th green. Photo: Warren Little/Getty Images
Rai’s chaces came to an end in the heavy rough to the left of the 18th green. Photo: Warren Little/Getty Images

But Rai’s pulled approach plunged into the heaviest of greenside rough from which he could only advance the ball four feet into yet more heavy rough. By the time he rolled the ball into the tin cup, it was for a bogey six. And, out on the practice range, Catlin’s caddie, watching on his smart phone while the player kept loose hitting fairway woods, provided news of his latest win.

Confidence

“Every time I tee it up, I want to win. When I tee it up the next two weeks (in the Scottish Open and the BMW PGA) my goal will still be the same. I want to give myself a chance coming down the back nine on Sunday . . . . knowing I had won before and won on the European Tour gave me a lot of confidence and I was able to keep my nerves in check and execute some really good shots down the stretch,” said Catlin of closing the deal.

“It’s definitely special to be inside the top 100 (in the world). That was a goal of mine for sure. My next goal is to get inside the top 50. I’m not sure how I’m going to do it yet, but I’d love to win one of the Rolex Series events or a Major . . . . there’s not one route for any golfer. (Playing the) Asian Tour was where I found my stride and now I’ve moved on to the European Tour. I’d love to play on the PGA Tour someday, that’s been my dream since I was a kid.”

And, in casting his eyes over the Irish Open trophy and the list of names on it, Catlin observed it as “an honour” to get his name alongside them. “It’s a who’s who in the names of golf. Rory McIlroy. Sergio Garcia. Colin (Montgomerie) is on there three times. Shane Lowry. So many incredible names. Definitely an honour to be listed among those,” said Catlin, who followed Hubert Green and Ben Crenshaw as American winners of the tournament.

Collated final scores & totals in the European Tour Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, Galgorm Castle Golf Club, Ballymena, Northern Ireland (British unless stated, par 70):

270 John Catlin (USA) 67 70 69 64

272 Aaron Rai 65 70 67 70

273 Jazz Janewattananond (Tha) 68 70 66 69, Maverick Antcliff (Aus) 70 65 68 70

274 Joakim Lagergren (Swe) 70 66 71 67, Oscar Lengden (Swe) 67 71 66 70

275 Lucas Herbert (Aus) 71 67 67 70, Fabrizio Zanotti (Pry) 70 72 70 63, Jordan Smith 65 71 70 69

276 Adrian Meronk (Pol) 71 69 70 66

277 Justin Harding (Rsa) 68 69 69 71, Scott Hend (Aus) 68 69 70 70, Joost Luiten (Ned) 71 70 69 67

278 Richard Bland 72 67 71 68, Laurie Canter 73 67 68 70, Ben Stow 70 75 67 66, Toby Tree 66 70 69 73, Rikard Karlberg (Swe) 67 75 65 71, Daan Huizing (Ned) 70 69 70 69, Masahiro Kawamura (Jpn) 74 71 66 67, Ewan Ferguson 70 67 70 71

279 Dean Burmester (Rsa) 65 71 68 75

280 Marcus Armitage 69 71 71 69, Adri Arnaus (Spa) 73 69 73 65

281 Craig Howie 73 71 68 69, Jason Scrivener (Aus) 73 69 74 65, Robert Rock 69 67 78 67

282 Joachim B. Hansen (Den) 72 72 68 70, Clement Sordet (Fra) 70 70 74 68, Antoine Rozner (Fra) 73 72 66 71, Jack Senior 70 73 66 73, Calum Hill 70 70 73 69

283 Richie Ramsay 71 74 68 70, Matthew Southgate 74 70 73 66

284 David Law 69 69 76 70, Alejandro Canizares (Spa) 71 72 71 70, Lars Van Meijel (Ned) 71 71 73 69, Martin Simonsen (Den) 68 75 74 67

285 Steven Brown 71 74 71 69, Garrick Porteous 73 71 71 70, Robin Sciot-Siegrist (Fra) 73 72 71 69, Jake McLeod (Aus) 70 73 74 68, Dale Whitnell 71 72 72 70, Dave Coupland 72 69 73 71, Sean Crocker (USA) 72 67 74 72, Nacho Elvira (Spa) 69 71 74 71, Oliver Farr 70 70 76 69

286 Julien Guerrier (Fra) 68 70 74 74, Wilco Nienaber (Rsa) 70 72 72 72, George Coetzee (Rsa) 71 73 71 71

287 Lucas Bjerregaard (Den) 68 74 70 75, Stephen Gallacher 67 74 70 76, Mathieu Fenasse (Fra) 72 72 73 70

288 Wil Besseling (Ned) 74 71 73 70, Niklas Lemke (Swe) 68 74 75 71, Jonathan Caldwell (NIrl) 71 70 73 74, Scott Jamieson 69 76 75 68

289 Max Schmitt (Ger) 73 72 73 71, Aaron Cockerill (Can) 75 70 71 73

290 Romain Wattel (Fra) 74 71 75 70, Darius Van Driel (Ned) 73 70 75 72, Mark Power (a) (Irl) 74 71 73 72, James Morrison 72 69 73 76

291 Shubhankar Sharma (Ind) 72 72 76 71, Damien McGrane (Irl) 70 74 75 72

292 James Sugrue (a) (Irl) 67 72 73 80

293 Ross McGowan 73 71 76 73

295 Joel Stalter (Fra) 74 70 74 77

296 Colm Moriarty (Irl) 75 69 73 79, Richard McEvoy 72 72 73 79

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