Catlin looking unbeatable at Saudi Open; Thailand’s Aphibarnrat is in distant second place

John CatlinRiyadh, Saudi Arabia: John Catlin put himself one round away from securing an emphatic wire-to-wire victory in the Saudi Open presented by PIF today after firing a course-record nine-under-par 62 to lead the US$1million event on 19-under.

The American, one ahead after round one and two, now has a whopping eight-shot lead at Riyadh Golf Club, when for the third successive day he was bogey-free.

Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat is in distant second place following a 67, while a shot further back are Australians Wade Ormsby (68) and Scott Hend (70), David Puig (69) from Spain, and China’s Li Haotong (70).

Catlin has enjoyed some incredible periods of form during his career, but this current purple patch is one of his best.

He is attempting to win back-to-back Asian Tour titles having claimed the International Series Macau presented by Wynn five weeks ago – where he shot the Asian Tour’s first ever 59 in the third round.

The 32-year-old was in a class of his own today, making three birdies on the front nine to move three ahead at the turn before he pulled further ahead with three birdies in a row from the 10th, and three birdies in the last four, including on 17 and 18.

Said Catlin: “My game has felt in good shape, yesterday I hung in there when I didn't have my best and was able to shoot a decent round. Today it was just one of those days where the putter just gets hot and it's almost like you can't miss, so I just kept going and kept trying to make as many as I could. I mean, there's so many good players out here and there's plenty of birdies to be made tomorrow.”

Having successfully negotiated the Asian Tour Qualifying School in January he has been in inspired form this season in the region, finishing joint third in the season-opening Malaysian Open, before winning in Macau and impressing again this week.

“Nothing changes [tomorrow],” he added.

“The job is not finished, I gotta keep putting the pedal to the metal. David [Puig] has shown he can shoot some really low numbers. There's a lot of other guys that are very, very capable. So yeah, I’ve got to keep going, nothing's finished until it's done.”

His current hot streak is similar to 2020 when against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic he won his first DP World Tour event at the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters, also wire-to-wire, and then three weeks later won the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.

Kiradech’s return to form continued once again today.

The Thai star lost in a play-off at the Porsche Singapore Classic on the DP World Tour last month and will have a crack at the title tomorrow, although it will require an almighty collapse by Catlin, which is highly unlikely.

“It was a good score at the end of the day, but I started really slow you know, two over par the first seven holes,” said the 2013 Asian Tour Order of Merit winner, who later became the first Thai to earn a PGA Tour card.

“My first birdies came on nine, then 10, 11 and I eagled 12. That changed the game around. I tried to look at the leaderboard and I was quite far behind, so I tried to push myself up a bit. Missed couple putts, was a little too firm trying to get more birdies, but at the end of the day four under par round on really firm greens, I accept that.”

The 34-year-old is chasing his first Asian Tour victory in five years and despite encouraging signs he feels his game still needs significant improvement.

He added: “[My game] not as good I’m used to before, but at least 30 or 40% more than before for sure. I will say my game is like 70-80% right now. Ball striking is getting there, a lot of good iron play this week. The last few months feel good with the golf swing, working with a local pro back home, Kwanchai Tannin who is a former Asian Tour player. I got some feeling back, we got really similar golf swing with a lot of wrists, a lot of feel.”

Thailand’s Panuphol Pittayarat and Ittipat Buranayarat fired rounds of 66 and 69 and are next best placed, 10 behind Catlin.

Scores after round 3 of the Saudi Open presented by PIF being played at the par 71, 7246 Yards Riyadh Golf Club course (am - denotes amateur):

194 - John Catlin (USA) 65-67-62.
202 - Kiradech Aphibarnrat (THA) 68-67-67.
203 - Wade Ormsby (AUS) 66-69-68, David Puig (ESP) 67-67-69, Scott Hend (AUS) 66-67-70, Li Haotong (CHN) 68-65-70.
204 - Panuphol Pittayarat (THA) 69-69-66, Itthipat Buranatanyarat (THA) 68-67-69.
205 - Kristoffer Broberg (SWE) 73-65-67.
206 - Jaco Ahlers (RSA) 74-67-65, Peter Uihlein (USA) 70-70-66, Austen Truslow (USA) 73-67-66, Jose Toledo (GTM) 70-69-67.
207 - Jared Du Toit (CAN) 73-67-67, Dodge Kemmer (USA) 71-69-67, Bjorn Hellgren (SWE) 69-69-69, Aaron Wilkin (AUS) 73-64-70, Charlie Lindh (SWE) 69-68-70, Steve Lewton (ENG) 70-64-73.
208 - Jack Thompson (AUS) 71-70-67, Atiruj Winaicharoenchai (THA) 72-68-68, Ratchanon Chantananuwat (am, THA) 70-68-70, Prom Meesawat (THA) 68-67-73.
209 - Settee Prakongvech (THA) 70-70-69, Siddikur Rahman (BAN) 74-66-69, Poosit Supupramai (THA) 68-71-70, Sarit Suwannarut (THA) 69-70-70, Harrison Crowe (AUS) 68-71-70, Gunn Charoenkul (THA) 72-65-72, Tatsunori Shogenji (JPN) 66-70-73.
210 - Sadom Kaewkanjana (THA) 75-67-68, Ajeetesh Sandhu (IND) 76-65-69, Jordan Zunic (AUS) 72-67-71, Robin Williams (RSA) 69-69-72.
211 - Travis Smyth (AUS) 70-72-69, Trevor Simsby (USA) 72-70-69, Andy Ogletree (USA) 72-70-69, Rattanon Wannasrichan (THA) 71-71-69, Natipong Srithong (THA) 71-69-71, Varun Chopra (USA) 70-69-72, Miguel Carballo (ARG) 70-68-73, Justin Quiban (PHI) 66-70-75.
212 - Gaganjeet Bhullar (IND) 70-72-70, Neil Schietekat (RSA) 70-71-71, Michael Maguire (USA) 72-69-71, Maverick Antcliff (AUS) 67-73-72, Carlos Pigem (ESP) 73-67-72, Chang Wei-lun (TPE) 70-69-73, Mathias Johansson (SWE) 70-66-76.
213 - Danthai Boonma (THA) 67-74-72, Henrik Stenson (SWE) 69-72-72, Shiv Kapur (IND) 72-69-72, Lee Chieh-po (TPE) 70-70-73, Eugenio Chacarra (ESP) 71-69-73, Suteepat Prateeptienchai (THA) 72-68-73, Phachara Khongwatmai (THA) 71-68-74, Pavit Tangkamolprasert (THA) 68-68-77.
214 - Nitithorn Thippong (THA) 73-69-72, Justin Harding (RSA) 71-71-72, Jeunghun Wang (KOR) 71-70-73, Ayoub Lguirati (MOR) 70-71-73, Angelo Que (PHI) 72-67-75, Denwit Boriboonsub (THA) 70-68-76.
215 - Ian Snyman (RSA) 72-70-73, Sam Brazel (AUS) 70-72-73.
216 - Othman Raouzi (MOR) 72-70-74.