America’s John Catlin took a one-shot clubhouse lead in the Blue Canyon Phuket Championship on Thursday as the Asian Tour returned after a 20-month break.
Eagles at the par-five 9th and 15th holes helped the four-time tour winner to a first-round 65, seven under par, a shot ahead of Taiwan’s Chan Shih-chang.
The $1-million tournament on the idyllic holiday island of Phuket had the first shots being played on the Tour since the Malaysian Open in March 2020.
There was disappointment for home star Phachara Khongwatmai as a bogey on the last left him five under par, tied third with Ian Snyman of South Africa and a shot off a share of second place.
Current order of merit leader Wade Ormsby of Australia was one of 14 players to finish on 69, four shots off Catlin, who came to Phuket off the back of a top-10 finish in the $9m DP World Tour Championship in Dubai this past Sunday.
The Blue Canyon event comes just weeks after Australian great Greg Norman shook up the world of golf by announcing his new series of 10 events from 2022, backed by $200m of Saudi money.
World No 123 Catlin has been in fine form in recent years, claiming three European Tour wins in addition to his Asian titles.
“I made a few long ones, I just happened to play well. And I took advantage of the par fives,” the 31-year-old said.
He sealed his eagle at the 9th with a 30-foot putt, and hit a 3-wood to nine feet to set up his second at the 15th.
Catlin had previously based himself in the Thai seaside resort of Hua Hin and said the familiarity paid off for him.
“Last time I was here was in May 2020. It feels great, like I have been saying for the past four years it feels like a second home,” he added.
© Agence France-Presse