John Catlin becomes the third two-time winner on the European Tour of the season, following on from Rasmus Hojgaard and Sam Horsfield Catlin claimed his breakthrough victory at the Andalucia Masters earlier in September.
The American birdied three of his last four holes to close a six-under 64 to finish at the top top of a congested leaderboard at Galgorm Castle. Catlin is the third American to win the Irish Open, following in the footsteps of Ben Crenshaw and Hubert Green.
Catlin ended the week on ten under and two ahead of overnight leader Aaron Rai. Ray narrowly missed out on a wire-to-wire victory in Northern Ireland and had to settle for a runner-up finish after a closing bogey, with Jazz Janewattananond and Maverick Antcliff a further stroke back in tied-third.
World No 138 wins the day!
The world No 138 started day four off at pace and followed a tap-in birdie at the second by holing a 12-footer to save par at the next, before rolling in an eight-foot birdie at the fourth and draining a 30-footer at the par-four eighth.
Thanks to a two-putt gain at the tenth, only to lip-out with his birdie try at the next and then post a three-putt bogey from the fringe at the 13th, Catlin briefly moved within a share of the lead. Catlin was two behind until he made a long-range birdie at the 13th and converted from five feet at the next, before closing out his round and setting the clubhouse target with a two-putt birdie at the par-five last.
“It’s hard to describe how special this feels,” said Catlin, the first American winner of this historic title, first played for in 1927, since Hubert Green in 1977 and the third overall (Ben Crenshaw was the other in 1976).
“That’s incredible company to be in. It’s an honor to have my name on the trophy with those great players and the likes of Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Colin Montgomerie, Ian Woosnam. Seve Ballesteros and Nick Faldo.
So much hard work during lockdown has gone into this moment. It was my goal to win again at the start of the week, so to achieve that is truly special. With five holes to play, I kinda had nothing to lose. I was going after every flag and was able to hit a couple in there close”.
The 3-wood on the 18th was the best of them though, a shot that clinched the €196,690 first prize, a place in the top-20 on the Race to Dubai and, most likely, a first-time spot inside the world’s top-100 golfers.
He is thus one big performance away from the top-50 and automatic places in the four majors, a long-held ambition and, for Catlin, “the only level of golf I haven’t played at”. “That shot was so satisfying,” continued Catlin, a three-time academic All-American during his time at the University of New Mexico.
“It was 268 yards to the hole. It was cold and it was damp out there. I needed to hit a big high draw, a shot I know I can hit. But to do it in those conditions and in that situation is hard to put into words. Winning at Valderrama has given me massive confidence.
You never know if you are going to win, but winning there has freed me up. I can look myself in the mirror and tell myself honestly that, having won once, I can do it again”. Rai, was two behind Catlin at the time, with three holes to play, having mixed two birdies with as many bogeys during his early part of the round, only to halve the deficit by firing his approach to close range at the 17th.
Rai's level-par 70 saw him end the week in second ahead of Janewattananond. Swedish pair Joakim Lagergren and Osacar Lengden claimed a share of fifth on six under, with Paraguay's Fabrizio Zanotti jumping into tied-seventh after a round-of-the-day 63.