The rise and rise of Tyrrell Hatton continues. For the fourth time in his past 20 starts, the 29-year-old Englishman has ended a tournament week posing for pictures, the winner’s trophy by his side. A bogey-free final-round 66 was more than enough for Hatton to add the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship to his burgeoning and record-setting collection of four European Tour Rolex Series titles, not to mention a more than $US1.3 million boost to his bank balance.
Hatton’s 18-under-par 270 was four shots lower than that managed by the runner-up, Jason Scrivener. The 31-year-old West Australian hurtled into that second place courtesy of a back-nine 29 – “in my own little world”, he called it – that included five birdies and an eagle. More on Scrivener’s extraordinary run in a moment.
Overnight leader Rory McIlroy finished third, a shot further behind after a disappointing 72 marred by as many as four dropped shots.
The victory will likely lift Hatton into the top five of the world ranking, a career best. Hatton took control at Abu Dhabi Golf Club just before and after the turn on Sunday. A shot behind McIlroy standing on the seventh tee, the now six-time European Tour winner was three ahead when the pair reached the 13th tee. All of which was achieved by a potent mixture of fine play by Hatton – highlighted by some extraordinary putting – and a couple of good breaks at just the right times. Throw in a little bit of bad luck for McIlroy and some uncharacteristic sloppiness by the Northern Irishman, and the pair were suddenly headed in different directions.
Having holed from 30 feet for a birdie on the par-4 ninth, Hatton repeated that feat for an unlikely birdie on the par-5 10th. Further away in 3 than McIlroy was in 2, the eventual “half” in 4 was another boost to the eventual champion’s morale. Both men flew their drives off the 11th tee into sand – and both balls hopped out. But it was there any similarities ended. Hatton’s ball found a near-perfect lie; McIlroy needed a deep and violent gouge with a wedge to excavate his ball from a subterranean lie, from which he could only reach the bunker short of the green. In turn, that led to what was McIlroy’s third bogey of the day.
“It’s a bit surreal to be honest,” Hatton said. “Even now, after knocking the putt in on 18, it doesn’t seem like I have won the tournament. But to add my name to that trophy is a huge honour. The big moment for me was the putt on 10. It was going at least eight feet past, but it hit the hole and went in. Then my tee shot on 11 pitched in the bunker and came out. We’ve seen plugged lies in the lips this week, so that was a bit of good fortune.”
That Hatton would make yet another birdie (his fifth of the round) on the par-4 13th was by then somehow routine. “Game” and “set” were on the scoreboard, if not quite “match”, the gap between the leader and anyone else up to four shots.
“I wasn’t taking anything for granted though,” Hatton said. “It’s tough to win any tournament. Every single week there are world-class golfers at the top of the leaderboard. So you know you have to go out there and play well.
“Starting the day one behind Rory, it was always going to be a tough day. If he plays as good as he can, he’s basically the best in the world. So I’m really happy with how I played and how I managed the conditions. To shoot six-under and go bogey-free – obviously I’m very happy with that. This is massive for me. The Ryder Cup points started again this week and that is a huge goal for me this year.”
Indeed, during Hatton’s post-round press conference, his enthusiasm for the biennial contest was obvious. He might have contributed only a single point to Europe’s victory in France last time, but he is well up for a second go at Whistling Straits come September. The so-called and self-confessed “awkward and shy” individual he portrayed so convincingly this week in the European Tour’s latest social media venture, “The Angry Golfers”, is clearly neither of those things with a club in his hands.
“2018 was the best golfing experience of my life to date,” Hatton said. “I absolutely loved the week. I’m sure it will be a very different experience playing away, if I make the team. There’s a lot of golf to play between now and again, but fingers crossed that I’m there.”
He will be.
• • •
Meanwhile, two hours of power propelled Scrivener to the biggest result of his burgeoning career.
Scrivener, 31, and the rest of the world-class field in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship had to defer to the white-hot champion. But the classy West Australian found reward for months of hard off-season work with a stunning back-nine 29 to finish second in the European Tour’s season-opener.
The sweet-swinging right-hander will move to a career-high estimated No.115 in the world ranking after he shared the day’s best round of six-under-par 66.
“I was in my own little world,” Scrivener said after he finished at 14-under, one clear of McIlroy in third place.
“I got off to a good start, but then made a few soft bogeys (late in the front nine).
“But [Perth-based caddie] Lance [De Grussa] and I were just plodding away… and then kind of stuck with it and had 29 on the back and it was nice.”
Scrivener, the 2007 Australian Junior champion, won the 2017 New South Wales Open, but is yet to win professionally overseas despite a rash of top-10 finishes in the past five years.
But De Grussa said he’d never seen his mate work so hard since his season finished in November with just Christmas Day off in the interim, including working with mind coach Dave Alred, the man behind another former world No.1 Luke Donald and English rugby great Jonny Wilkinson.
“He’s been a game-changer for me,” Scrivener said of Alred.
“We sat down two months before Christmas and he’s really helped me a lot and pushed me to work that bit harder.”
That paid off to the tune of almost $1.14million for “Scriv”, who kick-started his run with an eagle on the par-5 10th hole.
He then made regulation birdies on 12, 14 and 15 before chipping in from greenside rough on 16 to pull clear of McIlroy and a field also containing other world top-20 players including Justin Thomas and Tommy Fleetwood.
Another birdie to close his round was icing on the cake for Scrivener, who was then left to wait as Hatton surged to victory.
– Additional reporting by Mark Hayes, courtesy of golf.org.au
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