BANGKOK (AFP) – American John Catlin took a one-stroke lead in the Blue Canyon Phuket Championship on Thursday, November 25, as the Asian Tour of Golf returned after a 20-month hiatus imposed by the pandemic.
The Eagles at the ninth and 15th par-five holes helped the four-time tour winner secure a 65, seven-under first-round shot in front of Taiwanese Chan Shih-chang.
The US $ 1 million (S $ 1.37 million) tournament on the idyllic holiday island of Phuket saw the first hits on the Tour since the Malaysian Open in March 2020.
There was a disappointment for local star Phachara Khongwatmai as a buggy on the latter left him five under, tied for third with Ian Snyman of South Africa and a shot from second place.
Current Order of Merit leader Wade Ormsby of Australia was one of 14 players to finish out of 69, four shots behind Catlin, who arrived in Phuket after finishing in the top 10 at the Championships. $ 9 million DP world in Dubai on Sunday.
The Blue Canyon event comes just weeks after Australian legend Greg Norman rocked the golfing world by announcing his new round of 10 events starting in 2022, backed by US $ 200 million in Saudi money.
World number 123 Catlin has been in great shape in recent years, securing three victories on the European Tour in addition to his Asian titles.
“I did a few long ones, I happen to be playing well. And I took advantage of the par five,” said the 31-year-old.
He sealed his eagle in the ninth with a 30-foot (10-meter) putt and hit a three- to nine-foot antler to establish his second in the 15th.
Catlin had previously been based in the Thai resort town of Hua Hin and said the familiarity paid off for him.
“The last time I was here was in May 2020. It feels good, as I’ve been saying for four years, it’s like a second home,” he added.