John Catlin overturned a four-stroke deficit at Galgorm Castle Golf Club, firing a sublime final round 64 to win his second European Tour title of the season at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.
The American, who held off the challenge of former World Number One Martin Kaymer to win the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters earlier this month, started the day four strokes behind 54-hole leader Aaron Rai but quickly moved up the leaderboard as he made the turn in three under par.
A bogey on the 13th, his only dropped shot in 27 holes, was cancelled out by a long birdie putt on the 15th which drew him level with Rai on eight under. He pulled clear after another gain on the 16th hole and then signed for a ten under par total after a stunning three wood from 268 yards left him with an easy two putt for his seventh birdie of the day at the last.
Rai birdied the 17th to move to nine under, needing a birdie to force a play-off, but an errant second shot found trouble on the left hand side of the green and a dropped shot handed Catlin his second victory in four weeks – elevating him to 14th in the Race to Dubai presented by Rolex in the process.
Australian Maverick Antcliff and Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond shared third place on seven under par, while the Swedish duo of Joakim Lagergren and Oscar Lengden finished tied for fifth.
John Catlin: “It’s pretty hard to describe. So many years of hard work have gone into this moment. It was my goal to win again at the start of this week, to have accomplished it is something truly, truly special.
“I had nothing to lose. I was going after every flag, I had good numbers and the greens were soft. So I started taking aim and hit a couple in their close. I made a long one on 15 and that three wood on 18 was so satisfying. It was 268 yards to the hole, cold and damp. To just hit a big high draw in there like I know I can, under those conditions, really is hard to put into words.
“(Winning at Valderrama) was massive. You never know if you’re going to win or not, to get that monkey off my back at Valderrama really freed me up today to know I could do it. Be able to look myself in the mirror and tell myself that I’ve been here before and I can do it again.
“I’ve always wanted to play in the Majors, that’s the only level of golf I haven’t played at. Hopefully one day I can win one of those as well. To have gotten inside that top 100 is a big leap forward.”
Aaron Rai: “I’m feeling a little bit disappointed. I can’t hide that. But I played solid for most of the week and 18 was just one of those things. It’s golf, and it happens, but John played incredibly well today and deserves it.
“It’s nice this week, it’s the first time I’ve been in contention throughout the whole week and stayed there. There’s a lot of positives to take, I felt like I handled myself well on the outside and, more importantly on the inside, a lot more positives than negatives to take out of this week.
“I didn’t really look (at the leaderboard) around 14 and 15. I was aware coming off 17 what the situation was, but that was it all day. I wasn’t trying to focus on the leaderboard. I was quite aware of what was happening then.”
Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free, offered his congratulations to John Catlin and also said: “Despite the fact that this tournament was played behind closed doors there was certainly no shortage of excitement on the golf course. It is great to see golf returning and we would like to thank the players, the European Tour and the team at Galgorm Castle Golf Club for their hard work.
“This has been a challenging year for everyone but we are happy to have retained our sponsorship support for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open despite the challenges. This sponsorship promotes our brand to a huge TV audience and helps promote the fact that Dubai is very much Open for Business.”