Catlin strikes late to bag Sarawak C’ship

Arep Kulal|Asian Tour
John Catlin conquered the scenic Damai Golf & Country Club for his second Asian Tour win

Kuching [SARAWAK]: American John Catlin sank a clutch birdie putt on the last hole to win his second Asian Tour title in a thrilling final round at the US$300,000 Sarawak Championship on Saturday.

The 27-year-old held his nerve before rolling in a five-foot putt on the par-four 18th hole to edge his closest challengers Jazz Janewattananond of Thailand, Danthai Boonma and Paul Peterson of the United States by a single shot at the Damai Golf and Country Club.

There was very little breathing space for Catlin in the final round but he eventually prevailed after returning with a bogey-free six-under-par 66 for a 22-under-par 266 total in the inaugural Asian Tour event.

A fast charging Jazz birdied 16 and eagled 17 for a superb 64 to set the clubhouse target on 21-under before settling for second place with countryman Danthai (66) and overnight leader Peterson, who also birdied the last to finish with a 68.

A closing effort of four-under 68 saw Sukree Othman finish as the best-placed local in the field, sharing 25th placing with four others on 11-under 277.

John Catlin clutches his fist in celebration after sinking the all-important birdie on the 72nd hole ©Arep Kulal|Asian Tour

With Jazz safely in the clubhouse, the Sarawak Championship looked likely to enter extra time before Catlin stepped up to sink the crucial putt under immense pressure.

“It was crazy! It was a grind all week long. People keep making birdies and I asked myself ‘when is my birdie going to be enough!’ I finally did it on the 18th hole and that’s what I needed,” said the champion, who snared a total of 21 birdies in 72 holes.

He got off to hot start when he birdied the opening two holes before adding four birdies on his homeward nine on holes 10, 12, 17 and 18.

“Danthai, Peterson and I were tied after the 12th hole and suddenly on 17 we saw that Jazz was one ahead of us! Honestly I wanted someone to go ahead because I figured it would push me and put a little fire under me. That’s probably why I birdied the last hole.

“I saw Peterson birdied 18 as well but it didn’t change the situation. It actually helped me seeing the break because I wouldn’t have played quite as much break if I hadn’t seen Paul’s putt. Seeing his putt go in was definitely helpful,” said Catlin, who becomes the first player to win multiple titles on the Asian Tour this year, following his maiden win at the Asia-Pacific Classic in China in May.

Jazz failed to win back-to-back titles but the result will give him and Danthai the much needed confidence ahead of their Major debut at The Open in a fortnight.

“I didn’t think I had a chance today! I didn’t think I could come close and I started really slow on the front nine. I’m happy that I continued to play this well leading into The Open.

“After the birdie on 16, I still felt like I was too far but I hit it close on 17 and made eagle. That changed everything but I couldn’t birdie the last hole. It is okay because from no chance of winning, I actually gave myself a glimmer of hope,” he added.

The 30-year-old Peterson was disappointed not to win the Sarawak Championship where he held the lead since the opening round. He piled the pressure on Catlin with a cool birdie finish on the last but eventually settled for second place.

“It was a tremendous week. This is the most under-par I’ve ever been in my professional career. There are a lot of positives to take from the week. It was going to take someone to play a really good round to beat me and that’s what happened. I birdied the last to try and rattle him but a great putt by him. He deserved the win,” said Peterson.