Seven weeks after he was the first – and still only – player to be thrown out of a European Tour for breaching strict coronavirus regulations, American John Catlin is a multiple winner after claiming the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Galgorm in Northern Ireland.
The 29-year-old from Sacramento, California returned a stunning six-under 64 on a frost-delayed final day at the tough parkland course near Ballymena to claim his second title in three events.
Catlin was thrown out of the English Championship at Hanbury Manor for breaching the tour’s “bio bubble” by going for a meal with his caddie. He did his penance, apologised and came back into the bubble to win the Andalucia Masters at Valderrama, where he led from start to finish.
This time the self-confessed grinder had to come from four back on the final day, picking up birdies at three of the last four holes to overwhelm the leading trio Aaron Rai, Jazz Janewattananond and Maverick Antcliff.
England’s Rai, who had at least a share of the lead for the first three days, had a chance needing a birdie four up the last hole to force a play-off, but bogeyed instead leaving Catlin two in front with a ten-under aggregate of 270.
Catlin had edged ahead coming to the last but got up in two with a glorious three-wood to the green for a two-putt birdie that left Rai needing to do the same, and he couldn’t match it.
“It was my goal to win again at the start of the week, so to go and do that makes this just very special,” said Catlin.
“Today I kind of had nothing to lose, I was going after the flags, I had good numbers in and the greens were soft, so I just started to take aim,” he said.
“I hit a few close, I had that one long putt at the 15th, and then to hit that three-wood to the 18th, that was just so satisfying. I had 268 years to the hole, it’s cold and it’s damp and just to hit a big high draw in there like I know I can in those conditions, the feeling’s hard to put into words.”
Ewen Ferguson finished as top Scot on two-under in a share of 14th, but a weekend of one-over golf meant the Bearsden Challenge Tour player was unable to contend as he’d hoped when just two off the lead after 36 holes.
Ferguson’s consolation is an invitation to play in this week’s Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open at The Renaissance, which is a full $7 million Rolex Series event.
“It’s unbelievable, I’m just going to go out and see what I can do,” he said. “It’s my first Scottish Open. I’ve always wanted to play it since I was a little boy, it’ll be cool to play there and try my best.
“I’ve played Open qualifying art Renaissance, so I know it’s a good and tough course. It can get pretty windy. If I go out and play my game it should be good.”
Ferguson’s fellow Challenge Tour player Craig Howie had another strong finish with a tie for 25th, while Perthshire’s Calum Hill had hinted at a change with four birdies in his first five holes, but gave three of them back on the back nine and finished at two-over.
Hill will also play The Renaissance as the entry list stretched to his category as a Challenge Tour qualifier, while Connor Syme has another of the sponsor’s invitations for the event.