18 April 2021: It took five iterations at the 18th before John Catlin secured his third victory on the European Tour in the last eight months. Maximilian Kieffer threatened to runaway from the field after picking six strokes through the first seven holes. The German got four ahead of Catlin, who began the day two adrift as the two men dueled for honours at the Diamond Country Club outside Vienna.
Even as Kieffer was upended in his tracks by the demanding middle section of the course, Catlin kept his head firmly on the shoulders to keep gaining ground through an interesting final round of the Austrian Golf Open. The German lost momentum when he conceded bogeys on the ninth and eleventh holes, opening the door for his American rival.
Catlin made the most of this invitation, pouncing on his opponent with three birdies on the way in to even the scores at 14-under, forcing the playoff. The 30-year-old produced a blemish free seven-under 65 to claw even with Kieffer, who recovered to a 66 with birdies on the 13th and 15th holes.
Kieffer appeared in danger on the 72nd hole when he delivered his tee shot into the greenside bunker. But he did not let the sand stall him there as he got up and down for par to ensure the playoff. Unfortunately though after splitting the 18th four times, Kieffer seemed to run out of steam on the fifth time of asking. He got wet three times on the par-3 18th, leaving Catlin with plenty of safety to secure his third European Tour victory in eight months.
SSP Chawrasia capped off a solid week under brutally cold conditions. The 42-year-old made three birdies and a sole bogey on Sunday as he worked his way to T15. Chawrasia’s 70 helped him to a five-under total for the week, highlighted by a brilliant 68 on Friday.
Shubhankar Sharma and Ajeetesh Sandhu took contrasting routes to finish in T61 with four other golfers. Sandhu made an elegant 72 in the final round to underline his potential while Sharma endured a 77 as he continued his quest to regain lost form.
Martin Kaymer capped a strong week with a third place finish. The German was watching his compatriot lose in an intriguing playoff after finishing three shots back at 11-under. He was three ahead of fourth placed Marcus Armitage, Wil Besseling and Garrick Higgo.
Incredibly, this is Catlin’s third victory in just 13 starts as he continues his climb up the order on the Dubai Rankings. The win on Sunday pushed him inside the top 25, already better than his 35th place last year. The American is currently ranked 124th in the OWGR, but victory is expected to catapult him some 40 odd places when rankings are issued on Monday.
“I’d love to crack that top 50 in the world,” he said. “Just get a chance to play in some Major Championships – I’ve actually never played in a Major. I’m thinking this gives me a very good chance to play in the US PGA Championship, that was kind of my goal.
“Hopefully it’s good enough and to get into those events and to have the chance to win a Major, that’s been my goal since I was a kid.
“Winning is never easy, it doesn’t matter what tour you’re playing on and to have gotten this one is definitely something special.
Earlier in the day, overnight leaders Alejandro Cañizares and Kaymer dropped shots early in their rounds to leave the battle in the hands of the prolific duo that eventually fought the playoff. Kaymer conceded shots on the first three holes, but he worked his way back to a 70 with the help of six birdies.
“It’s always tough to watch that happen,” Catlin added. “We’re out here giving it our all, he’s obviously a very, very accomplished player and to come out on top is something I will always cherish.”
Kieffer also proffered to look at the positives rather than dwell on the disappointment. “Standing here I feel like I’m only going to get better. Sometimes it doesn’t happen that way, you never know in golf, but I’m confident about the game and I felt good.
“Every shot on the play-off felt good too but the last shot was a bit stupid, I got a bit too aggressive.”