SOTOGRANDE, Spain – John Catlin became the first American since Tiger Woods to win at Valderrama on Sunday, surviving conditions so difficult that he didn’t make a birdie in his 4-over 75 and held on for a one-shot victory in the Andalucia Masters.
Catlin won for the first time on the European Tour and denied Martin Kaymer another chance to end a six-year drought.
Kaymer, who now has gone 156 events since his last victory in the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2, twice had birdie putts inside 10 feet to take the lead. He missed them both on the 16th and 17th holes, and they proved costly.
Catlin made a superb up-and-down from behind the 17th green, leaving them tied heading to the 18th hole.
Catlin was in the fairway and played a fade around the cork trees to the back of the green, setting up a lengthy two-putt for his par. Kaymer from the right rough went into the right bunker and hit his 25-yard sand shot just through the green. His chip to force a playoff stopped next to the hole and he had to settle for a 74.
Kaymer also finished one shot behind last week at The Belfry, another former Ryder Cup course.
Catlin, who grew up in Sacramento, California, and played at New Mexico, is a four-time winner on the Asian Tour and had limited status on the European Tour until winning Sunday.
”That was my goal … To accomplish that is pretty hard to put into words right now,” he said.
Woods won the World Golf Championship at Valderrama in 1999, beating Miguel Angel Jimenez in a playoff.
Catlin finished at 2-over 286, the first time a regular European Tour event was won with a score over par since the Spanish Open at Valderrama in 2016.
The course lived up to its reputation for drama.
Catlin had a two-shot lead going to the back nine when he pulled his tee shot on the par-3 12th and made bogey, and Kaymer made a 7-foot birdie putt for a two-shot swing and a one-shot lead. It was the first time since the 16th hole of the opening round that Catlin was trailing.
They were tied when Kaymer made bogey from just short of the 13th green. Kaymer regained the lead on the 14th when Catlin’s 8-foot par putt lipped out. Kaymer gave it back when he missed an 8-foot par putt on the 15th, right after Catlin made his par putt from about 12 feet.
”The nerves were going nuts the whole round,” Catlin said.
Justin Harding of South Africa birdied the 17th and suddenly was tied for the lead at 2 over, only to double bogey the 18th. He wound up tied for third with a 71.
The victory caps a tumultuous six weeks for Catlin, who was disqualified from the English Championship for violating the European Tour bubble by going out to dinner with his caddie. He apologized for what he said was bad judgment, returned the next week to tie for sixth in the Celtic Classic and now has full membership on the European Tour.
For Kaymer, the wait continues. Next up is the U.S. Open at Winged Foot in New York.