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American John Catlin aims for major-championship berth

American John Catlin wins 2021 Austrian Open
American John Catlin wins the Austrian Open for his 3rd title on the European Tour in the past 7 months.

With 5-hole playoff victory at Austrian Open, Californian has won 3 times on European Tour in past 7 months, raising his career goals

American John Catlin has yet to play in a major championship in eight years as a touring professional, but that career goal could be met soon.

Catlin outlasted Germany’s Maximilian Kieffer on the fifth playoff hole to win the European Tour’s Austrian Open on Sunday in Atzenbrugg, Austria. It was his third victory on the tour in the past seven months.

“I’d love to crack that top 50 in the world,” said Catlin, who entered the Austrian Open at No. 124. He had risen to No. 84 in the Official World Golf Ranking last fall after winning the Irish Open, just three weeks after he won the Andalucia Masters for his first title on the European Tour. “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 U.S. PGA Championship; that was kind of my goal.”

Catlin and Kieffer had tied at 14-under 274 through 72 holes at Diamond Country Club. They matched pars on the first two replays of the par-3 18th hole before both birdied the hole on the third extra trip, followed by matching pars. Then, on the fifth extra trip, Kieffer dumped his tee shot into the water, then rinsed two more balls from the drop zone, allowing Catlin to cruise to the title with a bogey. Catlin earned €147,370 (about $176,520) from the €1 million (about $1.2 million) purse (scores).

“It’s obviously nice to win, but you never want to see your opponent finish like that,” Catlin said. “That’s difficult.”

Germany’s Martin Kaymer, the former world No. 1 and two-time major champion, shared the 54-hole lead with Spain’s Alejandro Canizares. Kaymer shot 70 to finish third, and Canizares faded into a tie for seventh with a 74. Kaymer has not won on any major pro tour since he claimed the 2014 U.S. Open.

Catlin, 30, who grew up in Sacramento, Calif., and played college golf at New Mexico, has been globetrotting as a touring professional for nearly a decade, rarely competing in his home country. After stints on developmental tours in Canada, Thailand and Asia, he won four times on the Asian Tour in 2018-19, earning a promotion to the European Tour. He quickly has proved himself in Europe during the past year, which he hopes will be worth a spot on one of the world’s biggest golf stages, perhaps in the PGA via an invitation.

“Hopefully, it's good enough, and to get into those events and to have the chance to win a major,” he said. “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.”

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