Hatton Completes Italian Job for Back-to-Back Victories
TYRRELL HATTON produced a brilliant back nine to achieve back-to-back victories on the European Tour and win the Italian Open in sensational style. He banked $1m, finds himself back in the top 20 in the world rankings and has climbed into the top five in the Race to Dubai.
Last week Hatton successfully defended the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews, and he began the final round trailing 54-hole leader Matt Wallace by two strokes. Hatton made a slow start to his round and became increasingly frustrated as the putts refused to drop. But he kept plugging away as everybody around him was picking up birdies and eagles.
Hatton came home in 30 shots, including four birdies on the trot and holed a stunning putt on the final green to secure the title. And afterwards he was ecstatic.
"It was a battle with myself," he said. "I had a really slow front nine and I fought so hard to stay patient. My caddie told me it would happen. I knew I needed to make some birdies and then my putter got really hot. It was amazing to see that putt drop on the last. I had a good feeling when I was standing over the ball. I was nervous but those are the feelings you want to have. It is great to have my father as my coach. We worked hard over the summer when I had a really bad run. To have back to back wins is just amazing. I just want to soak this up and enjoy every single moment of it."
Hatton's problem is that he sets incredibly exacting standards for himself and tends to get annoyed when things don't go his way. But this was a day when he finally found some patience and was duly rewarded.
He finished with a round of 65 and a 72-hole total of 263, 21-under-par. It was good enough to pip Ross Fisher and Kiradech Aphibarnrat by a shot. Fisher raced to the turn in 31 with the help of five birdies and picked up three further shots coming home to finish with a 63. Last week he closed with a course record 61 at the Old Course at St Andrews, where he also finished second to Hatton.
Aphibarnrat reached the turn in 32 and when he birdied the 11th, 12th and 14th holes it looked like the Thai golfer was on the way to victory. However, he dropped a shot at the par-five 16th, one of the easiest holes on the course, and although he immediately got it back at the 17th, his final round of 65 saw him come up one shot short, tied with Fisher.
Wallace, who began the week in 130th place on the Race to Dubai, played some glorious golf, but struggled on the greens. He finished with a 69 but had the consolation of securing his card with his fourth-place finish. Marcus Fraser birdied five of the first six holes and when he added another at the ninth he had reached the turn in 30 and was right in the mix. He also birdied the 11th, but his challenge ended with dropped shots at the 13th and 15th, sandwiched between yet another birdie at the 14th. The Australian finished with a 65, which was good enough to secure fifth spot on his own. Like Wallace, he had been in danger of losing his card, but has done enough to keep his playing privileges.
Race to Dubai leader Tommy Fleetwood was one of a group of four players, including defending champion Francesco Molinari, who shared sixth place on 17 under par, good enough to extend his lead at the top of the rankings.
PAT PEREZ, once the bad boy of American golf, won his second title of 2017 when he shot a final round of 69 to claim the CIMB Classic at TPC Kuala Lumpur by four strokes over Keegan Bradley.
Perez was once more famous for his temper tantrums than for his golf but, at the age of 41, he finally seems to have grown up. He birdied the second, third and fourth holes to assume complete control of the tournament and although he dropped a shot at the sixth, a birdie two at the par-three eighth hole helped him to reach the turn in 33. He was 24 under par, and after reeling off nine successive pars on the back nine, that was how he finished.
His winning total of 264 was good enough to see him walk away with a cheque for $1.26m and 500 FedEx Cup points, taking him into second place in the overall standings.
It was a highly encouraging week for Bradley, one of the most frustrating players on the PGA Tour. He still takes far too long to hit his shots, gripping and regripping, walking away from the ball before addressing it all over again. He has struggled for a couple of years, but there are signs that his very best golf is not far away. Bradley is a former winner of the US PGA Championship and was one of those who fell victim to the ban on belly putters and, initially, it shattered his confidence as he complained that the ban was unfair.
But Bradley is nothing if not determined and he has found a way to get the ball into the hole. He made three birdies and a magnificent eagle at the par-five fifth and was error-free in his round of 67. Xander Shauffelle, winner of the Tour Championship, was expected to mount a serious challenge to Perez, but it wasn't his day. He made four birdies, but also recorded five bogeys in his round of 72 and finished on 17 under in a tie for third place with South Korea's Sung Kang.
Justin Thomas, who was looking for his third successive victory in this tournament, finished with a 67 and tied for 17th place at 11 under par.
It is not so long ago that Perez wondered whether he would ever play tournament golf again after suffering a career-threatening shoulder injury in 2016, and he certainly didn't expect this win. “It is unreal. I think I'm the last guy that expected to win this week, to be honest with you," Perez said. "I really can't explain it, it's been an amazing 12 months. I just hope it continues. And I promise you one thing - I'll be back here every year. Every year of the tournament, I'll be here. It's been very good to me. The tournament's been fantastic."
IT WAS also a huge weekend for Erik van Rooyen, who secured his European Tour status for 2018 by winning the European Challenge Tour's Hainan Open in China.
The South African began the week in 10th place in the Road to Oman Rankings, and his winning cheque for more than £40,000 is good enough to ensure he will be playing on the European Tour next season.
He began the final round with a two-shot lead but had Challenge Tour No 1 Tapio Pulkkanen breathing down his neck.
Van Rooyen led Pulkkanen by a shot going into the final round of the Kazakhstan Open but Pulkkanen went on to win after a playoff. Not this time though. In wind and rain, van Rooyen battled all the way for a 71 and a two-shot win.
“I am super stoked and it has always been a dream of mine to play on the European Tour,” he said. “To have that dream become a reality after today feels amazing. I have played a couple of European Tour events and you just really want to be there as you really want to play against the best out there.
“I woke up with a two-shot lead but after Tapio made birdie at the first and I made bogey it was gone, so you just have to stop and reset as there are 17 holes of a good battle remaining – which we had. The whole day was tough in the conditions but I guess from 15 onwards I knew I was close. I had a two-shot lead and I wanted to maintain that so the birdie I made at the 17th was huge as it meant that I was three ahead as I teed up on the par five 18th."
The victory takes van Rooyen to fourth place in the Road to Oman Rankings while Finland’s Pulkkanen is now 41,000 points ahead in the race for top spot.
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