Tyrrell Hatton Strolls to Victory in the Desert
IN THE end it turned out to be a stroll in the desert for Tyrrell Hatton as he added another Rolex title to his collection with a four-shot victory at the Abu Dhabi Championship. In the process he reaches a career-high fifth in the world rankings.
At the start of the day we had the mouthwatering prospect of Hatton, Rory McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood, the three top UK players in the world rankings, going head to head in a thrilling climax. But in the end, McIlroy made too many mistakes, while Fleetwood’s chances disappeared on the back nine.
Hatton, who won the BMW PGA Championship last year, closed with a brilliant round of 66 at Abu Dhabi Golf Club to claim his fourth Rolex title and a first prize of $1m.
Hatton finished at 18 under, four shots clear of Australia's Jason Scrivener - who came home in a glorious 29 shots - and five ahead of McIlroy, with Spaniard Rafa Cabrera Bello at 12 under.
The victory sees him equal Jon Rahm's record of Rolex Series wins after previous victories at the Italian Open, Turkish Airlines Open and PGA Championship. It was his sixth victory on the European Tour.
Having made his Ryder Cup debut in 2018 and won his first event on the US PGA Tour at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last year, Hatton moves to the top of the Race to Dubai after finishing in the top 10 in the season-long standings in four of the last five years.
"It's surreal to be honest," he said. "Even knocking the putt in on 18 doesn't seem like I've won the tournament but it's amazing. I've always loved starting my season here in Abu Dhabi and to now add my name on that trophy with so many great champions before me is a huge honour.
"It's massive, Ryder Cup points have started again and that's a huge goal for me this year, to make that team, so I'm absolutely delighted that I've managed to pick up a load of points this week. I'll enjoy tonight but then my attention will turn to next week."
McIlroy and Hatton both made two-putt birdies on the par-five second but the Northern Irishman extended his overnight advantage with a 20 foot putt on the next.
However, he three-putted the fourth to see his lead cut to one. After excellent up-and-downs on the third and fifth, Hatton put his tee shot to six feet on the par three seventh to join the lead. McIlroy then failed to recover from a poor tee shot on the eighth, finding sand short of the green with his third and struggling out of the bunker to drop a shot and leave Hatton at the top of the leaderboard.
A 27-footer on the ninth moved Hatton to 15 under and after making birdies on two of the toughest holes on the course, he led by two at the turn.
Hatton maintained his momentum with a 34 foot putt over the ridge for a birdie at the tenth and while McIlroy had a good look at eagle, he needed two putts and the gap remained at two.
McIlroy took the brave line off the 11th tee but failed to clear the bunkers, finding more sand with his second and dropping a shot to extend Hatton's lead to three.
An excellent approach from the rough to five feet at the 13th meant Hattom led by four with five holes to play. McIlroy dropped another shot on the 16th and found himself replaced in second by Scrivener. After turning in 37 with two birdies and three bogeys, he eagled the tenth and then made gains on the 12th, 14th, 15th, 16th and last to sign for a 66 and cut the lead to three. He picked up a cheque for $750,000, by far the biggest of his career.
But Hatton holed an 18 foot putt on the 16th to re-establish his cushion and cruised to a commanding victory. Cabrera Bello took advantage of all four of the par fives and added a birdie from 12 feet at the third in a 69 that also contained bogeys on the 11th and 15th.
American David Lipsky and Scot Marc Warren signed for a pair of 71s to finish at 11 under, a shot clear of Fleetwood, Chris Paisley, Matt Wallace and Paraguay’s Fabrizio Zanotti.
McIlroy admitted that he didn’t have his best game. “I didn’t drive the ball particularly well this week, but I was pleased with my short game,” he said. “I felt that I putted really well and I am now looking forward to heading to Torrey Pines for the Farmers Insurance Open. I feel like this is a positive start to my season and hopefully I can move forward from here."
WHAT a difference a year makes in the life of Si Woo Kim. Twelve months ago the South Korean withdrew from the American Express Championship after a first round of 87 brought on by acute back pain. Now fully healthy, he birdied two of the final three holes to finish an eight-under to beat Patrick Cantlay by a shot and secure his third PGA Tour victory. Cantlay had started the day in 13th place but surged through the field on his way to a stunning course record 61.
It was Kim’s first victory since the Players Championship almost four years ago and he admitted that he spent much of his round watching the leaderboard. "Every year, I've had a chance, but I couldn't make it,” he said. "I had to know what's going on, so I knew how to play my game in the final round. I knew Cantlay was playing really well. I tried to keep patient and believe in myself. I got the chance on 16 and 17, and that's when I could make it. I feel good about myself."
Cantlay's surge saw him leading by one as the tournament reached its climax, but Kim had other ideas. He birdied the par-five 16th to pull even and then holed a 20-foot birdie putt on the island green on the 17th to move back in front.
"I thought I would have a chance at a playoff," Cantlay said after falling just short of his fourth career victory despite his best career round as a pro. "I played about as good as I can possibly play."
Kim wrapped up his third bogey-free round of the tournament -with a two-putt par on the 18th to finish at 23-under 265.
"I just tried to focus on my game," Kim said. "I didn't even know I had a bogey-free round today."
Kim joined Collin Morikawa as the only PGA TOUR players under 26 years old with three career wins.
Cantlay was in 56th place when the third round began after making the cut on the number, but his 65-61 finish nearly gave him his second victory of the 2020-21 season. He also won the ZOZO Championship in October. "I knew they still had a bunch of holes left, but really I put myself so behind the 8-ball on Thursday and Friday," Cantlay added. "I played unbelievable this weekend. I did everything I could. Just going to be a shot short."
Australia's Cameron Davis (64) finished a career-best third at 20 under. Tony Finau (68) finished fourth after starting the final round with a share of the lead in his quest to land his long-awaited second PGA Tour win.
"A couple of those guys just went really low today," Finau said. "I had some opportunities, I think, to shoot a number. But man, I'm kind of leaving today pretty encouraged. I played nicely."
Mexico's Abraham Ancer (66), Michael Thompson (66) and Doug Ghim (69) finished tied for fifth at 15 under.
Cantlay made 11 birdies in the final round, including six in eight holes on the front nine. All told, Cantlay made 20 birdies in his final two rounds.
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