It’s been five weeks since John Catlin won the last Asian Tour event in spectacular fashion, but the break appears to have been inconsequential for the American after he took the first-round lead in the US$1million Saudi Open presented by PIF today.

He shot a six-under-par 65 at Riyadh Golf Club for a one-shot advantage over Australians Scott Hend and Wade Ormsby, Japan’s Tatsunori Shogenji and Filipino Justin Quiban.

Catlin is very much the man of the moment having won the International Series Macau presented by Wynn last month after defeating Spaniard David Puig in a sudden-death play-off. His fifth win on the Asian Tour was helped by an astonishing 11-under-par 59 in the third round for the circuit’s first ever sub-60.

He said: “I rested for a bit after Macau. I gave myself about a week off and then I got right back to grinding. There were some things I wanted to improve upon. I was able to do it and I feel like I am getting there. It is a never-ending process, there are always things we can do better.”

He was bogey-free today, making three birdies on each nine – in what is the fifth event of the season on the Asian Tour.

“It was solid today,” said the 32-year-old Californian, who was out in the morning session.

“It was playing difficult out there. The wind picked up, pretty much from the get go. I really had control of my ball flight. I was able to get the ball pin high a lot. It was difficult. I holed a few nice putts.”

He is currently in second place on the Asian Tour Order of Merit, which is being led by Puig, having also come close to winning the season-opening Malaysian Open, where he tied for third.

Hend, playing later in the day, looked the most likely to catch Catlin especially when facing an eight footer for birdie on the par-five 15th to move to seven-under. But the 50-year-old surprisingly three putted for a bogey to slip back to five under. He parred home from there.

“The greens were more difficult as the afternoon went on, so tomorrow morning we will have the best of the greens,” said the Australian, a 10-time winner on the Asian Tour.

“The game is in good shape as always, possibly could win at some point, possibly.”

Ormsby has spent much of the season travelling on the LIV Golf League as a reserve and admitted it was good to open with a 66 despite the lack of tournament time.

“Played nicely, been hitting it well past few days so it’s nice to take that to the tournament, especially as it has been pretty windy,” he said.

“I haven’t had a great start to the year, but the game has been okay. I just havent had the scorecard in my pocket as I have been travelling with LIV a little bit, which changes your rhythm.

“The game feels good, and I feel I have good things ahead of me. I have just got to get back into playing tournaments.”

Puig, who made a costly double on 16, Thailand’s Danthai Boonma, and Australians Maverick Antcliff and Justin Warren carded 67s.

Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Li Haotong from China are in a group of players who shot 68s.

Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, second here last year, shot a 69, while the defending champion Denwit Boriboonsub from Thailand came in with a 70.

Spain’s Ryder Cup star Rafa Cabrera Bello carded a 72.

Scores after round 1 of the Saudi Open presented by PIF, being played at Riyadh Golf Club –  a par 71, 7246-yard course (am – denotes amateur):
65 – John Catlin (USA).
66 – Wade Ormsby (AUS), Justin Quiban (PHI), Tatsunori Shogenji (JPN), Scott Hend (AUS).
67 – Danthai Boonma (THA), Maverick Antcliff (AUS), Justin Warren (AUS), David Puig (ESP).
68 – Itthipat Buranatanyarat (THA), Pavit Tangkamolprasert (THA), Prom Meesawat (THA), Harrison Crowe (AUS), Poosit Supupramai (THA), Kiradech Aphibarnrat (THA), Li Haotong (CHN).
69 – Lachlan Barker (AUS), Bjorn Hellgren (SWE), Robin Williams (RSA), Sarit Suwannarut (THA), Charlie Lindh (SWE), Panuphol Pittayarat (THA), Henrik Stenson (SWE).
70 – Ayoub Lguirati (MOR), Stefano Mazzoli (ITA), Varun Chopra (USA), William Harrold (ENG), Lee Chieh-po (TPE), Settee Prakongvech (THA), Peter Uihlein (USA), Gaganjeet Bhullar (IND), Denwit Boriboonsub (THA), Travis Smyth (AUS), Sam Brazel (AUS), Jose Toledo (GTM), Miguel Carballo (ARG), Mathias Johansson (SWE), Steve Lewton (ENG), Neil Schietekat (RSA), Chang Wei-lun (TPE), Ratchanon Chantananuwat (am, THA), Todd Sinnott (AUS).
71 – Manav Shah (USA), Khavish Varadan (MAS), Jack Thompson (AUS), Jeunghun Wang (KOR), Kevin Yuan (AUS), Khalid Walid Attieh (am, KSA), Justin Harding (RSA), Rattanon Wannasrichan (THA), Eugenio Chacarra (ESP), Phachara Khongwatmai (THA), Natipong Srithong (THA), Dodge Kemmer (USA).
72 – Ye Wocheng (CHN), Jordan Zunic (AUS), Trevor Simsby (USA), Rafa Cabrera Bello (ESP), Suradit Yongcharoenchai (THA), Othman Raouzi (MOR), Gunn Charoenkul (THA), Ian Snyman (RSA), Angelo Que (PHI), Michael Maguire (USA), Shiv Kapur (IND), Gonzalo Fdez-Castano (ESP), Atiruj Winaicharoenchai (THA), Suteepat Prateeptienchai (THA), Andy Ogletree (USA), Jbe Kruger (RSA).
73 – Douglas Klein (AUS), Liu Yanwei (CHN), Christian Banke (USA), Chonlatit Chuenboonngam (THA), Yuvraj Singh Sandhu (IND), Ervin Chang (MAS), Deyen Lawson (AUS), Jared Du Toit (CAN), Carlos Pigem (ESP), Ho Yu-cheng (TPE), Aaron Wilkin (AUS), Tomoyo Ikemura (JPN), Soufiane Dahmane (am, MOR), Nitithorn Thippong (THA), Ahmad Baig (PAK), Galven Green (MAS), Ayoub Id-Omar (MOR), Austen Truslow (USA), Jediah Morgan (AUS), Kristoffer Broberg (SWE), Chan Shih-chang (TPE), Zach Murray (AUS), Miguel Tabuena (PHI), Chikkarangappa S. (IND), Frank Kennedy (ENG).
74 – Ali Alsakha (am, KSA), David Meyers (RSA), Saud Al Sharif (KSA), Naoki Sekito (JPN), Li Linqiang (CHN), Veer Ahlawat (IND), David Drysdale (SCO), Berry Henson (USA), Luis Carrera (MEX), Jaco Ahlers (RSA), S.S.P. Chawrasia (IND), Siddikur Rahman (BAN), Matias Dominguez (CHI).
75 – Lion Park (KOR), Sadom Kaewkanjana (THA), Liu Yen-hung (TPE), Akinori Tani (JPN), Taichi Kho (HKG), Kartik Sharma (IND).
76 – Dean Naime (EGY), Matt Killen (ENG), Shahriffuddin Ariffin (MAS), Peter Badawy (LBN), Saptak Talwar (IND), Ben Jones (ENG), Poom Saksansin (THA), Daniel Gale (AUS), Chen Guxin (CHN), Ajeetesh Sandhu (IND), Jay Mullane (am, ENG).
77 – Minhyeok Yang (KOR), Honey Baisoya (IND), Faisal Salhab (KSA), Karandeep Kochhar (IND), Charng-Tai Sudsom (THA).
78 – Issa Abouelela (am, EGY).
79 – Prince Khalid Al-Faisal (am, KSA), Karl Ableidinger (AUT), Ahmed Marjan (MOR), Kosuke Hamamoto (THA), Othman Almulla (KSA).
81 – Ahmed Al Zayed (am, BHR), Elyes Barhoumi (TUN), Chapchai Nirat (THA), Salem Al Abkal (am, KWT).
85 – Khalid Jameel Alqunaibit (am, KSA), Rochdi Mekkaoui (ALG).
88 – Sami Hajri (TUN).

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