American John Catlin expects Mount Juliet to present a much different test to Galgorm Castle last year but he’ll be drawing on plenty of healthy memories when he gets his Dubai Duty Free Irish Open defence underway on Thursday.
Catlin came through relatively wintry conditions in Northern Ireland last September where a final round 64 saw him claim the crystal trophy by two strokes in what was his second victory in three starts on the European Tour.
This week’s return to Ireland represents his first career title defence and although he expects the Kilkenny layout to play differently to what he experienced in Galgorm last year, Catlin insists there’s enough familiarity there to go into Thursday’s opening round feeling confident.
“I’m very excited to defend, this is my first opportunity to defend my win,” Catlin said, who’s drawn in star-studded company alongside Rory McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood for the first two days.
“Even on the Asian Tour I didn’t have an opportunity to defend any of my wins so I’m really excited, a lot of the memories from last year coming back – different golf course but I’m definitely drawing on some of those shots I hit down the stretch and the confidence that gives me.
“It’s definitely a little bit different to here. It looks like the weather will be pretty good, maybe a couple days of rain but I think back to that shot I hit coming down 18 at Galgorm. It was coming down to the wire and I knew I needed to make a birdie there to solidify myself and make Aaron (Rai) beat me so to be able to hit that shot and two-putt was awesome.
“I’ve already played 18, the golf course is awesome. It looks similar to Galgorm visually, but it plays a little differently, a little bit longer and a little bit more open on some of the shots. But I’m looking forward to getting after it on Thursday.
“The game is pretty good. I’ve been putting in some good work when I was at home, with Noah my coach, just tightening some things up. I’m always trying to get a little better that I was before and I feel like I was close last week, I just couldn’t quite figure out the greens. I’m missing too many short putts and I missed the cut by a couple but that happens to everybody and I’m looking forward to this week.”
Catlin, McIlroy and Fleetwood get underway at 1pm on Thursday. Full tee times HERE