John Catlin had the honour of taking the clubhouse lead in the first round played on the Asian Tour in 20 months when he carded a seven-under-par 65 in the US$1million Blue Canyon Phuket Championship today at Blue Canyon Country Club.

On a jubilant first day back for the Tour following a long period of uncertainty caused by the pandemic, the American shot a dazzling round consisting of two eagles and three birdies ‒ on the famous Canyon Course. 

Chinese-Taipei’s Chan Shih-chang and South African Ian Snyman also impressed with 66s to sit in second place, while Thailand’s Phachara Khongwatmai fired a 67.

Catlin has been in inspired form over the past three years ‒ claiming four Asian Tour titles and three European Tour wins ‒ and gave another masterclass today.

“I made a few long ones, I just happened to play good. And I took advantage of the par fives,” said the 31-year-old Californian.

He eagled the par-five ninth after holing a 30 footer following a brave three-iron second shot, and later eagled the par-five 15th after nailing a three wood to nine feet. 

The American based himself in Hua Hin, Thailand, when he played on the Asian Tour and this week’s marks the first time he has been back in well over a year.

“Last time I was here was in May 2020. Feels great, like I have been saying for the past four years it feels like a second home,” he added.

He first made a name for himself by winning three times on the Asian Tour in 2018, followed by another in 2019; and he has achieved global recognition since then with three wins in Europe.

Chan has also been in prolific form of late, recording four wins on his countries domestic circuit. He was also runner-up in last week’s Yeangder TPC ‒ an event normally played on the Asian Tour but wasn’t this year because of covid.

“It’s been so long since we last came out to play. I am really excited this week. I’ve been playing well back home and the competitions have kept my game in shape,” said Chan, who won twice on the Asian Tour in 2016.

“My wife gave birth to my baby son six months ago. It was good that I could spend time with them at home during the pandemic. But now, it’s time to work hard again.”

Five players shot 68: Thailand’s Sadom Kaewkanjana, India’s Shiv Kapur and S. Chikkarangappa, American Paul Peterson, and Sihwan Kim from Korea.

A total of nine players were unable to finish round because of bad light.

This week’s Blue Canyon Phuket Championship will be followed by the Laguna Phuket Championship next week at Laguna Golf Phuket.

Both Phuket events boast prizemoney of US$1million and will be followed by two events being planned in Singapore in January that will bring to a conclusion the 2020-21 season.