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Arnold Palmer Invitational Preview, Picks & Analysis

By: | Mon 01 Mar 2021 | Comments

“MY NAME is Tyrrell Hatton and I am an angry golfer.” Those of you who have seen the European Tour’s tongue-in-cheek “therapy session” involving some of the tour’s most volatile golfers must surely have smiled at Hatton’s performance. You have to admire the way that he can laugh at himself after years of temper tantrums.

But it hasn’t stopped his meteoric rise up the world rankings. And his peers on the PGA Tour began to take him seriously 12 months ago when he won the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, one of the toughest tests in the United States.

Hatton is the first to admit that he has anger issues when it comes to his own golf game and the standards he expects of himself. A blow up or two is never far away but it hasn’t held him back and, indeed, it is probably what makes him the competitor he is. "I give myself a hard time and that's one thing that I should probably get better at,” the 29-year-old says.

And in the final round at Bay Hill 12 months ago the full range of Hatton emotions were on display as he converted a two-shot 54-hole lead in what was the final tournament to be held in front of spectators before the pandemic forced the shutdown of the PGA Tour.

Through eight holes, Hatton had bounced back from two early bogeys to reestablish a two-shot lead and looked pretty comfortable. But as eventual runner-up Marc Leishman said after falling a shot short of Hatton: “Of all the courses on the PGA Tour, this is the last one you'd pick to have a two-shot lead with three to go.”

For the second straight day the course was incredibly challenging, with just one round in the sixties over the entire weekend. Hatton’s 68-69-73-74 made him the first player since Geoff Ogilvy at the 2006 U.S. Open to win with two over-par rounds on the weekend. Rory McIlroy was one of those to suffer. He had two double-bogeys on the front nine to go from tied for the lead to out of the mix.

Despite the fact Hatton led by three standing on the 11th tee, he pulled out his driver. It meant a water hazard was in reach and sure enough his tee shot found it. Moments later he was facing a six-foot putt for a double bogey. Hatton reacted as Hatton does, thumping himself hard in the back with the handle of his putter a handful of times.

“It was really tough out there and obviously I was getting frustrated at times, but nowhere near the blow-ups that I am capable of. And it's just one of those days where you just got to stick in there, and patience is one of the hardest things with me,” he would say of the episode.

“I said the hardest thing for me would be to manage myself. And over the course of this week I feel like I did a decent job of that.

“It was so tough and obviously everyone's dropping shots quite easily. And after the double on 11, which was pretty tough to take … I did get a bit frustrated,” he said while sitting inside the replica Arnold Palmer red cardigan given to the winner with the large trophy also by his side.

“That's always going to happen with me. And as long as it's not kind of keeping on over to the next shot, then I'll be okay. I'm just happy that I've managed myself well enough this week to be sitting here.”

His caddie Mick Donaghy is key to Hatton being able to refocus. His job is to ensure that his player does not dwell on the tantrums.

“I was just annoyed because my third shot at the 11th was actually one of the best swings I made all day. I was just having a little moan, like it's the grass's fault and the wind's fault. It's never my fault,” Hatton said. “But Mick was really good. He just told me to get focused again, it's done, move on, and have a few practice swings and just kind of get some good feelings again. And I stood on the 12th tee and that was probably one of the best tee shots, certainly, that I hit.”

As Leishman and Sungjae Im tried to mount a charge, Hatton ground out seven straight pars. Even when Leishman, the 2017 winner at Bay Hill, got within one with two to play, Hatton remained steady in just his second event back from right wrist surgery.

“It's an incredible feeling to win at such an iconic venue and with obviously Arnie's name to it,” he said. “Hopefully I can push on and keep climbing.”

And, of course, he has and will have the last laugh if he successfully defends his title this week although he won’t need to be told that he faces a huge challenge, with a world-class field turning up to battle for the $1.65m first prize. Keep an eye on Italy’s Francesco Molinari, who won this tournament two years ago before his game fell off a cliff. The former Open champion is fit again and has been showing some hugely encouraging signs of a return to form of late.

The tournament was won in 2015 by Matt Every, in 2016 by Jason Day, in 2017 by Marc Leishman, in 2018 by Rory McIlroy, in 2019 by Francesco Molinari and last year by Hatton.

To Win:

Billy Horschel. Long overdue

Each Way:

Tyrrell Hatton.  Will relish the challenge

Each Way:

Patrick Reed. This course is made for him

Fantasy Picks:

Billy Horschel. Brilliant short game

Tyrrell Hatton. Adores the big stage

Patrick Reed. Love him or hate him, it’s impossible to ignore him

Matthew Fitzpatrick. Brilliantly consistent

Rickie Fowler. Time to deliver Rickie

Francesco Molinari. Would be fabulous to see him win again

Rory McIlroy. Which Rory will turn up this week?

Viktor Hovland. Keeps getting better and better

Paul Casey. Looking to secure his Ryder Cup berth

Sungjae Im. A machine

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Tags: PGA Tour FedEx Cup

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