John Catlin draws on his winning experience to capture the Irish Open

John Catlin celebrates with the trophy after winning the Irish Open at Galgorm Castle, Ballymena yesterday
Picture by PA  
Paul Kelly

CONTRARY to popular belief, it turns out you can put a price on experience and that figure is almost €200,000.

Three weeks ago, American John Catlin held off the challenge of former world number one, Martin Kaymer to win the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía at Valderrama and in doing so pocketed €196,690. Yesterday, the 29-year-old from Sacramento fired a sublime final round 64 at Galgorm Castle to secure his second European Tour title of the season at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.

“(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,” said Catlin.

“I was able to look at myself in the mirror and tell myself that I’ve been here before and I can do it again.”

Catlin 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.

Catlin added; “It’s pretty odd. 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.”

Rai who was bidding to go wire-to-wire, birdied the 17th to move to nine under but needing a birdie to force a play-off, his 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.

“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,” said Rai.

“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.”

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.

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