04 Mar 2021

Tyrrell Hatton – Catch me if you can

“Remember, when you’re feeling glum, pop up your thumb,” Tommy Fleetwood told Tyrrell Hatton in the European Tour’s hilarious ‘Angry Golfers’ sketch during the season opening Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

There would be no glumness that week, though, as the Englishman surged to a fourth Rolex Series title after carding a superb final round 66 to pull clear of overnight leader Rory McIlroy and finish the week on 18 under par.

The win in the UAE capital came just twelve months after the 29 year old was working hard to recover from a wrist injury which saw him miss out on last year’s Desert Swing. He has now cemented his position as the best British golfer on the planet as he moved up to a career-high fifth in the Official World Golf Ranking – something he is still coming to terms with.

“The win still feels a little bit surreal, alongside with where we’ve moved up to in the World Rankings. It doesn’t feel like it was me who won the tournament,” admitted Hatton. “I don’t see myself as anything special, I’m just going about my business, doing my own thing. That’s just the way I am, I guess.

“I wouldn’t say I’m uncomfortable with the position I’m in, I just don’t see myself as anything different. It’s not something that I really worry about. I’m just trying to play good golf and the World Rankings take care of themselves, if you’re able to do that. Fortunately for me, the last 14 months, I’ve been on a really good run and I’m hoping that continues.”

Hatton has two top-tens at The Open, most recently a share of sixth in 2019 at Royal Portrush.

The victory, which was Hatton’s fourth in his last 20 starts, also propelled him to the top of the European Ryder Cup points list and, bar a drastic turn of events, he will be one of Europe’s key men at Whistling Straits.

“Any time you win it gives you massive confidence, and to win in my first start of the season is a great feeling with Ryder Cup points starting again,” said Hatton, who made his Ryder Cup debut at Le Golf National in 2018.

“That’s definitely a goal of mine for the year ahead, so to pick up a lot of points in Abu Dhabi is great. I want to secure my place on that team as fast as possible, and this win has certainly gone a long way to helping me achieve that goal.

“The last Ryder Cup was the best golfing experience of my life to date. Home fans, and that first tee with the grandstand was just amazing. I absolutely loved the week.”

“I’m sure it will be a very different experience playing away, if I make that team, and hopefully I’m there at Whistling Straits. So, I’d love to try and help the team win. But you know, there’s a lot of golf to play between now and then, but fingers crossed that I’m there.”

Hatton’s Ryder Cup debut in Paris came courtesy of automatic qualification which was aided with victories at the 2017 Alfred Dunhill Championship and Italian Open, a Rolex Series event. With a changing of the guard expected this year in the European team, Hatton shared some sound advice with those looking to earn their spot on Padraig Harrington’s team.

“When I look back at that year, I thought I did really good job of not thinking about The Ryder Cup,” he said. “It might sound weird to say, but it never crossed my mind when I was out there on a Sunday or, you know, worried about if I had a bad round on the Saturday that took me out of contention going into the final round. I wasn’t worried about what potential Ryder Cup points I could lose.

“I would just say try your best to not put too much pressure on yourself and try to not think about The Ryder Cup and just play, play your own game, play the tournaments that you were going to play. You play good golf; you’ll make the team. And I can certainly say, if you make the team, it will be an unforgettable experience.”

Tyrrell Hatton bumps fists with his caddie Michael Donaghy after winning this year’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

One of those looking to make the trip to Wisconsin in September is 2018 Challenge Tour graduate Robert MacIntyre. The Scotsman broke his European Tour duck last year with victory at the Aphrodite Hills Cyprus Showdown before going on to challenge Paul Casey at the OMEGA Dubai Desert Classic – eventually finishing five shots back in third. That saw the youngster surge into the top 50 in the world as well as becoming the highest ranked lefty on the planet which has led to plenty of talk of a maiden Ryder Cup berth this autumn.

“Bob’s a fantastic player,” said Hatton. “I saw on social media that he had moved inside the top 50. He’s 24 and breaking inside the top 50 which is so impressive, and I’d like to think that everyone out here on The European Tour would probably expect him to go from strength-to-strength. His good result in Dubai is certainly going to help his confidence. I guess we wish him all the best.”

Angry Golfer

Hatton, as previously mentioned, had begun the week in Abu Dhabi by poking fun at his fiery temperament by starring in ‘Angry Golfers’ alongside the likes of Ian Poulter, Eddie Pepperell and Henrik Stenson.
Despite having a reputation as one of golf’s raging characters, Hatton’s demeanor out on course has seemed a lot more relaxed in recent months and he looks to move past his previous problems.

“I wouldn’t say I’m past it,” he said. “But I’ve gotten better at managing myself, certainly coming down the stretch on Sunday when there’s more pressure. My first few years on Tour, I’d probably throw away a couple of tournaments from just getting in my own way.

“And that’s not to say I’m not going to do that again in the future. I’m only human and I am going to make mistakes. I try my best to stay calm but then there’s always other factors; if I didn’t sleep that great the night before then naturally everyone is frustrated if they don’t sleep that well and they are just tired and whatnot. If I’m in a good place, I feel like I have got better at managing it.

“He’s everything you’d want in a player for sure. Obviously, there’s plenty of good golfers out there, but Tyrrell does seem to have ‘it’ when he comes under pressure on the big occasions with big players staring him down, like he was going against Rory and Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi. He’s a Ryder Cup Captain’s dream, isn’t he? That’s exactly what you want, a player that has that gumption and can really get it done.” – European Ryder Cup Captain Padraig Harrington on Tyrrell Hatton

“This game, some days it can feel so easy and then the very next day you don’t feel like you’re doing anything different and it feels like the hardest game in the world.

“When you hit good shots and get a bad bounce, stuff that’s out of your control, when you’ve done everything you think is right and it doesn’t go your way, obviously it’s frustrating, and that’s obviously at every level of the game. It’s pretty easy to have a moment of rage out there. I think everyone’s experienced it at one time or another.”

Major challenge

Despite his stunning form over the last 14 months, Hatton’s Major form has dipped having missed the cut in all three Major Championships that were held in 2020. He gets the opportunity to put that right next month as the world’s best return to Augusta National for the second time in six months for the Masters Tournament.

“Everyone in their career, their goal is to win a Major and I’m no different from that,” said Hatton, who has finished inside the top ten of all the Majors aside from the Masters.

“Obviously the Majors last year were disappointing for me to miss the cut in all three. But golf’s a funny game. You’re trying your best every single week, and some weeks, it sort of works out better than others.

“So, I’m hoping the 2021 Majors fall in good weeks for me, and I can put in some good performances there.”

By his side in his quest for a maiden Major will be charismatic caddie Mick Donaghy, who has helped Hatton take his game to a new level since linking up for the first time at the British Masters in 2019. Since then the two have struck up a superb partnership with their four victories worth more than a whopping £4.5 million at the Turkish Airlines Open, Arnold Palmer Invitational, BMW PGA Championship and the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“Mick’s brilliant,” he said. “He’s got so much experience. He’s won, what is it, four times the amount that I’ve won. The experience he has is great, and we get on really well away from the course, too. We’ve had a fantastic run so far. I love our partnership and working together. Obviously, I’m hoping that continues for a very long time.”

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