The Continuing Rise of Tyrrell Hatton
YOU have to hand it to Tyrrell Hatton - he knows how to pick his tournament victories. He has only won six times on the European Tour but four of those have come at Rolex Series events - the Italian Open, the Turkish Airlines Open, the BMW PGA Championship and the Abu Dhabi Championship. And his other two successes have come at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews. His sole win on the PGA Tour came at the Arnold Palmer Championship at Bay Hill, which is one of the toughest courses in the United States.
And, of course, four of those wins have come in 14 months. The 29-year-old Englishman has finally arrived in the big time after knocking on the door for several years. When he sniffs a chance to claim a title Hatton usually takes it. He has become one of the game’s best front runners. If you doubt it, just ask Rory McIlroy, who had a front-row seat in Abu Dhabi and was outplayed by Hatton.
The Englishman would be the first to admit that he has struggled to keep his temper in check but he has taken huge strides forward in this area too and is now able to laugh at himself, as demonstrated in a European Tour video entitled The Angry Golfer. “My name is Tyrrell and I am an angry golfer,” he says in the video. He is far more than that.
It has been quite a journey. Prior to joining the Challenge Tour way back in 2012, he played on the EuroPro Tour and Jamega Pro Golf Tour and won twice on both. He played on the Challenge Tour in 2012 and 2013, enjoying a couple of runner-up finishes. He finished 10th in the Challenge Tour rankings in 2013, which gave him playing rights to join the European Tour.
In his rookie season he finished in a tie for second at the Joburg Open and later in the year, he finished in a tie for fourth place at the Scottish Open and secured a place in the field for The Open at Hoylake. His first victory came in October 2016 when he won the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. He finished on 23 under par and finished four clear of Richard Sterne and Ross Fisher. Hatton carded a final round six-under 66, having equalled the St Andrews Old Course record with a 62 in the third round. The win took him inside the top 35 of the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time.
After a summer of struggles in 2017, Hatton found himself in contention at the British Masters but a disappointing weekend saw him finish in a tie for eighth. Not for the first time, his temperament was called into question, with veteran European Tour pro Gary Evans telling him to 'grow up. Hatton responded a week later with a successful defence of his Alfred Dunhill Links Championship title and later said: “Nobody’s perfect.”
He won again the following week, claiming the Italian Open. But at the Masters, he slipped and fell on the golf course and suffered a wrist injury that would require surgery.
In September 2018, Hatton was a member of the European Ryder Cup team that thrashed the USA at Le Golf National. He won one of his two four ball matches playing alongside Paul Casey, losing the other, and lost his singles match against Patrick Reed. But he got a taste for it and says that he can’t wait for this year’s encounter at Whistling Straits.
In November 2019, Hatton won the Turkish Airlines Open. Hatton finished the event at 20-under-par and then won a six-man playoff to claim the title and the first prize of $2m. Afterwards he addressed the issue of his temperament.
"I actually can't believe that I won. It's been quite a difficult year in terms of things happening off the course and I feel like I really found my game again. I said to a few people on my team that if I was lucky enough to win again then I would definitely savour the moment, because I think it's quite easy to take it for granted. Sport's great when it's going well, but when it's not going well, it kind of hits home, so I'm absolutely thrilled.
"Mentally I've always been a little sensitive, shall we say, and I feel like I have struggled a bit since the Ryder Cup. I've found it difficult. I won't say who, but I've asked a few guys who've played numerous Ryder Cups how they stay motivated when things aren't going their way because this is still new for me.
"I think it's easy to lose a bit of love when things aren't going great. When I've played myself out of contention on Thursday or Friday, I've sort of struggled to stay focused and maybe haven't given myself the best chance to finish as high up the leaderboard as possible. In previous years, I've had a fighting mentality and maybe that's disappeared a little bit this year.
"Golf is such an important part of my life and it means a lot. Do I care too much? Possibly. But I don't think it's a bad thing. It just shows how passionate I am. Look, I've always been easily frustrated and a bit of a hothead on the golf course and of course, everyone knows that. And if I start affecting my playing partners and costing myself shots, then it's a problem. But if I'm just irritated and moaning, that's kind of what I do. It's not something I would look at changing. Of course, the last thing I would want to do is put anyone off because that's not fair. And there have been times in the past when I've gone over the top and I've apologised to the guys at the end. But I've learned from that and I'm trying not to let that happen again.”
He has an army of admirers within the game, including Ryder Cup legend Ian Poulter. "He won Bay Hill in good fashion and he's put himself in there as a player that's very gutsy," Poulter said. "He takes shots on, he challenges himself, he puts a lot of pressure on himself. The expectation he puts on himself is big. You know, he's a larger than life character, he wears his heart on his sleeve. Some people misunderstand Tyrrell a little bit, I guess, for some of the ways he portrays himself on the golf course. He's definitely a character and I think that's what we as players see in him. He's different, he's not the norm and that's the beauty in what you see in Tyrrell Hatton."
After that victory in Turkey, Hatton had an operation on his wrist and spent three months out of the game. But he bounced back in style. In March last year Hatton won the Arnold Palmer Invitational, beating Marc Leishman by a stroke. And in October he added the BMW PGA Championship, becoming only the second player after Jon Rahm to win three Rolex Series events. That win lifted him into the top 10 in the world rankings for the first time.
His victory in Abu Dhabi saw him overtake McIlroy in the world rankings, reaching a career-high fifth. Only Masters champion Dustin Johnson, Spain's Jon Rahm and American major winners Justin Thomas and Collin Morikawa are currently ranked above him.
"I wouldn't say I'm uncomfortable with the position I'm in, I just don't see myself as anything different," Hatton said. "It's not something that I really worry about. I'm just trying to play good golf and let 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.”
It seems there is no end to what he can now achieve.
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