American John Catlin took a one-stroke lead in the Blue Canyon Phuket Championship on Thursday 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 round winner secure a 65, seven-under-par first round, one shot ahead of Taiwanese Chan Shih-chang.
The million dollar tournament on the idyllic holiday island of Phuket saw the first hits played 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 par, tied for third with South Africa’s Ian Snyman and a share of second.
Current Order of Merit leader Wade Ormsby of Australia was one of 14 players to finish out of 69, four strokes behind Catlin, who came to 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 series of 10 events starting in 2022, backed by $ 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.
Best scores after the first round of the Blue Canyon Phuket Championship (par 72):
65 – John Catlin (United States)
66 – Chan Shih-chang (TPE)
64 – Phachara Khongwatmai (THA), Ian Snyman (RSA)
63 – Shiv Kapur (IND), Paul Peterson (USA), Sadom Kaewkanjana (THA), Chikkaranagappa S (IND), Sihwan Kim (USA)