Kiwi’s Never-Say-Die Attitude Reaps Riches

Ben Campbell with the winner’s trophy at the International Series Morocco. Picture by Paul Lakatos/Asian Tour.

Rabat, Morocco: Ben Campbell snatched a surprise victory from John Catlin right at the very end, winning the US$2 million International Series Morocco after a sensational finish on the Red Course at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam.

New Zealand’s Campbell holed a 20-foot birdie putt on the par-five 18th to win on the first hole of a sudden-death play-off, having been three strokes behind playing-partner Catlin with two holes to play.

Campbell shot a two-under-par 71, helped by an eagle at the par-four 17th and a birdie on 18 in normal time, to tie American Catlin, in with a 72, on 15-under.

American Caleb Surratt (71) and Spaniard Eugenio Chacarra (73) tied for third, three shots behind the top two.

Campbell started the final day one shot behind Catlin – the leader after each of the first three days and chasing win number three of the season – and looked to be falling just short.

He’d made great up-and-downs for par on 15 and 16 before holing a 35-foot putt for eagle on the penultimate hole.

On the par-five 18th hole they both faced 10-foot birdie putts. Campbell holed his first before his American opponent, normally so clinical, just missed his attempt.

Campbell said: “That was a great finish. I didn’t have my best out there today and I kept saying to Mike (his caddie): ‘I’ve just got to find something and stay patient’. I went flag hunting on 16 and leaked it right, and hit a great bunker shot there. I said to Mike: ‘If I can find a birdie-eagle, you never know. So, I did that! Then to hole a putt like that in the play-off, it’s always good.”

It’s Campbell’s second success on the Asian Tour having won the Hong Kong Open, another event on The International Series calendar, at the end of last year after a similarly last-gasp finish when he nailed a 15-foot birdie on the final green to win by one.

The Morocco win is another reward for a player who placed third behind Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama at the 2011 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in Singapore, but has been dogged by injury through his career.

He said: “It’s been a tough run. I didn’t give up then and I’m not going to give up now. I just kept saying to Mike: ‘Don’t give up out here. I’ve got to find something in my swing’. I was feeling great on the range and lost it, sort of, on the course. I kept saying to myself: ‘Don’t give up’.”

Catlin had one hand on the trophy with three holes to go and seemed a safe bet to claim the seventh Asian Tour title of his career and second wire-to-wire of the season.

Holding a one-shot lead at the start of the day, he surprisingly bogeyed his first two holes, but bounced back to lead by one at the turn before a birdie on 15 left him with that three-stoke cushion. Two closing pars were not good enough to hold off the charging Campbell.

Said Catlin: “You have to tip the cap. I mean the guy goes two-four-four to finish. He probably made 130 feet of putts to win on the last three holes. All you can do is shake his hand and say well done.

“I played great. I never gave in. I just kept battling … kept chipping away. That birdie on 15 gave me a decent little cushion. I’m very pleased with the way that I played.”

The 33-year-old has the consolation of taking over from Mexican Carlos Ortiz at the top of The International Series Rankings, while he consolidated his lead on the Asian Tour Order of Merit (OOM).

Campbell is now second on The International Series Rankings and third on the Asian Tour OOM.

Surrat, at 20 the youngest player on the LIV Golf League, was thrilled with his performance. He said: “Really good week. I didn’t know it was going to be as good as this at my first International Series event. It was definitely way more than I expected.”

The Asian Tour takes a short break now before heading to the International Series England at Foxhills Country Club and Resort, from August 8-11. It will be the ninth event of the season on the Asian Tour and fourth leg of The International Series.

American Andy Ogletree, who topped the Asian Tour OOM and International Series Rankings last year, is the defending champion.

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