John Catlin Wins Irish Open to Claim Second Victory in a Month
John Catlin produced a brilliant closing 64 to win the Irish Open, his second European Tour title in a month. Conditions were the best they had been all week after a frost and fog delay at Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort and Catlin birdied three of his final four holes to win by two shots from 54-hole leader Aaron Rai, and three ahead of Australia’s Maverick Antliff and Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond, Swedish pair Joakim Lagergren and Oscar Lengden were next on six under.
Catlin is a four-time winner on the Asian Tour but entered this season without full playing privileges after finishing 155th on the 2019 Race to Dubai. He no longer has to worry about that.
After seeing off Martin Kaymer in the Andalucia Masters earlier this month, he now has two victories to his name, is 14th in the Race to Dubai and has moved into the top 100 in the world rankings. He also joins Rasmus Hojgaard and Sam Horsfield as multiple winners in this truncated season.
He also becomes the third American to win this event and the first for 43 years after victories for Ben Crenshaw and Hubert Green in 1976 and 1977.
"To be listed with those names is something truly special and I’m very honoured," he said. "I’m so happy. I was talking to someone earlier about where I was at four years ago and to be here is so surreal and a testament to my coach and all the hard work we put in. It’s so awesome to just be here.
"There are so many years of hard work that have gone into this moment. It was my goal to win again at the start of this week so to accomplish that is to do something truly, truly special. "You never know if you're going to win or not and to get that monkey off my back at Valderrama really freed me up today to know that I can look myself in the mirror and tell myself honestly 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 that I haven't played at and hopefully one day I can win one of those as well.”
Rai surrendered his solo lead with a bogey at the first but bounced straight back with a birdie on the second. Oscar Lengden, who would eventually finish four behind Catlin, also birdied the second and added another at the third to make it a three-way tie for the lead, but he fell back after finding sand on the fifth and thick rough on the seventh.
He was replaced in the leading group by Janewattananond, who put his approach to six feet at the fourth and holed a 15 foot putt on the sixth. Catlin also birdied the second, and picked up further shots at the fourth and eighth and was just one shot adrift. He joined the leaders when he hit the par-five 10th in two to collect another birdie.
Janewattananond also birdied the 10th to take the lead on his own. Lengden had holed a huge putt for an eagle on the 10th and he was in a share of the lead at eight under when Janewattananond failed to get up and down from sand on the 12th. Antcliff dropped shots on the 11th and 12th, Lengden bogeyed the 11th and Catlin dropped a shot on the 13th. But Janewattananond hit his approach to three feet at the13th before a double bogey on the next.
Catlin then joined Rai at the top with an 18 footer on the 15th and when he put an approach to four feet at the next to get to nine under, a Lengden bogey at the 14th looked to make it a three-horse race. But a wonderful second into the par five 18th set up a two putt gain and made it three birdies in four holes to hand Catlin a two-shot lead. Rai birdied the 17th but found a horrible lie at the last to finish with a bogey. Janewattananond bogeyed the 16th but picked the shot back up on the last, Antcliff also made the most of the closing hole, and Lengden birdied the 15th but bogeyed the next.
Lagergren made five birdies and a two bogeys in a 67 to finish a shot ahead of Fabrizio Zanotti, Jordan Smith and Lucas Herbert.
Meanwhile on the PGA Tour, Hudson Swafford landed his second career PGA Tour title when he won the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship after holing an eight-foot putt on the final green.
At one point, Swafford had a four-shot lead. He was five under through nine holes and looked to be cruising but a six on the par-four 13th and a bogey on the par-four 15th meant it was a nervous finish.
Swafford, who won The American Express in 2017, then played a magnificent six iron at the par-three 17th for a crucial birdie – a shot he said was similar to one he struck three years ago on the 17th hole in Palm Desert when the chips were really down.
“I was just envisioning my shot at 17 on PGA West when I stepped up on the 17th green,” Swafford said. “My caddie said, ‘You know, this is just a three-quarter six iron, you've been hitting your six iron great all day, all week, just hit one more. It's a 190, just do it,’ and I hit a beauty, then solid putt and went right in.”
After he left his birdie putt short on the 72nd hole he seemed to take a little extra time over his par attempt.
Swafford went all week without three-putting and he wasn’t going to notch his first three-putt of the week on the 72nd hole.
“I don't even know which side of the hole it went in on, I just know it was going in,” said Swafford.
He finished at 18-under par, the third straight winner at Corales Puntacana to finish with that score. Tyler McCumber finished runner-up at 17-under while Mackenzie Hughes, who finished tied second last season, was third.
Swafford missed time in 2018-19 after he had surgery in July of 2019 to remove a bone in his right foot. He said he realised something was amiss when halfway through a tournament he’d feel constant pain while walking.
“And that’s what I do for a living is walk,” Swafford said. “I found out I had a broken bone in the bottom of my foot that it had to be removed. They took it out. The bone was dead. I felt like I had just gotten confidence back and then that setback was there. It's been a struggle.”
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