Resurgent Catlin wins International Series Macau after tense playoff

golf17 March 2024 10:20| © AFP
article image
John Catlin @ Getty Images

John Catlin held off David Puig to win the International Series Macau with a birdie at the end of a tense playoff on Sunday and seal his comeback from "a rough last two years".

On a day of low scoring, American Catlin missed a five-foot birdie putt at the 18th hole in regulation that would have given him a six-under par round of 64 and the title by one stroke.

Instead his 65 left him in a tie at 23-under at the top of the leaderboard with the LIV golfer Puig, who had a blistering 10-under final round of 60 containing nine birdies and an eagle.

"We made that a little more interesting than we needed to, didn't we," Catlin said to caddie Barry Cornwall after his birdie at the second playoff hole secured the $360 000 first prize and a fifth Asian Tour win, but first since 2019.

"Still hasn't quite sunk in and that was one heck of a battle," the 33-year-old Catlin told reporters.

"If you had told me I would finish minus 23 on the tournament and I still have to be in a playoff, I'd be like: You're kidding."

The 22-year-old Spaniard Puig began the day five shots behind history-maker Catlin, who shot to the top of the leaderboard on Saturday with the Asian Tour's first-ever 59.

The pair went back down the par-five 18th for the playoff, where Puig agonisingly saw a bunker shot for eagle cannon away off the flagstick.

Second time around Catlin cosied his third shot close and Puig missed a five-footer.

Catlin tapped home the winning putt and celebrated his first Asian Tour victory since the Thailand Open in 2019.

The American also had three victories on the DP World (European) Tour but lost his card in 2023 after two years in the doldrums.

He got back to the Asian Tour via qualifying school in January and was stunned to be back in the winner's circle again so soon.

"It's been a rough last two years," Catlin told AFP.

"You know, there's times you start thinking about: 'Am I ever gonna win again, am I ever going to get it back?'

"You just kind of keep putting your head down. You keep working. I'm just really glad to be here. I just kept telling myself, I don't know when it's gonna happen, but I'm gonna win again.

"And to have it happen in a span of about two and a half months, from the start of the year, that's just great."

It was tough on Puig, who has been in rampant form.

He left college early to turn pro and joined LIV in 2022, leaving the Asian Tour as his only pathway to ranking points to qualify him for majors and the Olympics.

Puig won the International Series Singapore last year and the Malaysian Open last month, and should break into the top 100 when the new rankings are published on Monday – enough to qualify him for the US PGA Championship in May.

Another LIV player, Lucas Herbert of Australia, was third on 21-under par after a final-round 64.