Catlin’s Macau Jackpot After Wild Play-Off

John Catlin with the spoils of victory. Picture by Paul Lakatos/Asian Tour.

Macau: John Catlin claimed the International Series Macau presented by Wynn after a monumental finish to the inaugural event that saw the irrepressible American beat David Puig on the second hole of a wild sudden-death play-off.

Catlin, who shot an 11-under-par 59 on Saturday to become the first player to break 60 on the Asian Tour, backed that up with a typically tenacious performance, culminating in him winning after getting up-and-down for a birdie four on 18, after Puig missed his four from five feet.

The pair had ended the tournament tied on 23-under with Catlin shooting 65 and Puig 60, while Australian Lucas Herbert returned a 64 to finish third, two shots behind. American Patrick Reed secured fourth, one stroke further back, following a 63.

This is Catlin’s fifth victory on the Asian Tour, and first since the 2019 Thailand Open – which also came after a play-off. It’s also his first success on The International Series, and it came after an unexpectedly close finish.

Catlin had a two-stroke lead at the start of the day and put one hand on the trophy when he went out in four-under 30 for a four-shot advantage at the turn at the Macau Golf and Country Club. A birdie at 10 extended his lead to five.

However, he dropped a shot on 11 before Puig, playing four groups ahead, made a late charge. He emerged from the chasing pack and moved to within two when he birdied 12 and eagled 13, both par-fives. The Spaniard then made a birdie on 15 to sit one back before drawing level with another birdie on 16.

Catlin made a clutch eight-foot birdie putt on the par-three 14th to edge one ahead, but Puig drew level once again when he got up-and-down for a birdie on the par-five 18th.

Behind him, Catlin appeared to be in trouble at the par-three 17th after missing the green with his tee shot. He chipped to nine feet, but once again rose to the challenge and drained the putt, meaning he needed to birdie the last to win.

The final hole has seen birdies and eagles all week and Catlin was hot favourite to win in normal time, especially the way he was putting. However, after chipping to five feet he missed his putt for birdie to the disbelief of everyone watching.

On the first play-off hole, the tournament appeared to be going Puig’s way when Catlin’s second shot, with a fairway wood, sailed past the right side of the green and looked to be heading out of bounds. Fortunately for him, his ball came to rest on the road behind the main hospitality marquee and from there he was able to take a free drop.

As that was happening, Puig nearly made an eagle after his bunker shot from 20 yards hit the pin. It left him with a tap-in for birdie.

Catlin had to negotiate a difficult chip, with little green to work with, and left himself with a tricky six-foot putt. But putting the memory of his earlier miss behind him, he confidently made the putt to keep the play-off alive.

The next time round Puig again had the upper hand when he found the putting surface in two, although he faced a long-range putt. Meanwhile, Catlin’s second shot missed the green on the right, leaving another awkward chip.

Surprisingly, Puig’s first attempt was not up to his usual standard while his American opponent, sensing an opportunity, took the pin out and nearly holed out. After Puig missed his putt, Catlin was left with a tap-in for an epic victory.

“We made that a little more difficult than we had to,” said Catlin to caddie Barry Cornwall immediately after holing the winning putt.

As well as winning the Thailand Open in extra time, he triumphed in the 2021 Austrian Open on the DP World Tour in overtime. He’s never lost in a sudden-death play-off and he’s always won if he’s held the third-round lead.

David Puig (orange shirt) looks on as John Catlin reacts after holing the winning putt. Picture by Paul Lakatos/Asian Tour.

“Still hasn’t quite sunk in. That was one heck of a battle,” said the 33-year-old Californian. “If you’d told me I would finish minus 23, and I still have to be in a play-off, I’d be like: ‘You’re kidding’. But it was special all week. I fought really hard. I was battling all week long and to come out on top is really special.”

On his struggles on the first play-off hole, he said: “Basically I figured I had nothing to lose … he’s already made four. So, I’ve got to make four or it’s over, and it actually took a little bit of the heat off and I had a decent chip and a good putt.”

This is also his first appearance on The International Series and is redemption for being beaten by Puig in the season-opening IRS Prima Malaysian Open. He tied for third there and also missed out on a place in The Open due to a countback based on world rankings.

The win also justifies his decision to return to playing on the Asian Tour. He has been competing in Europe for the past four seasons – where he won back-to-back titles in 2020 and once in 2021 – but after a poor couple of years he opted to play in this year’s Asian Tour Qualifying School, where he made it through in 19th place.

He moves into second on the Asian Tour Order of Merit, while Puig has the consolation of becoming number one. On The International Series Rankings, Mexico’s Carlos Ortiz is still first, with Catlin second and Puig third.

“A good day. The score says it, right?” said Puig. “I had a very good back nine and I’m happy that I got into the play-off and I had a chance. It has been a good week. I’m pretty tired being the seventh week in a row, so I’m glad I finished on a good note.”

The Asian Tour has a break now before it heads to the US$1 million Saudi Open presented by Public Investment Fund, at Riyadh Golf Club, from April 17-20.

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