Tyrrell Hatton returns to Bay Hill ready to defend first TOUR title
March 01, 2021
By Jeff Babineau, PGATOUR.COM
- March 01, 2021
Tyrrell Hatton's winning highlights from Arnold Palmer
ORLANDO, Fla. – Tyrrell Hatton has spent some interesting stages of his life in Orlando.
In 2012, he was a green mini-tour pro visiting America from England, doing his best to scratch out a living on the Hooters Tour. He lived with three roommates and was bankrolled by members of his home club at Harleyford, Move forward eight years, and Hatton showed up to the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard last March hovering just outside the top 20 in the world, his stock rising. He had yet to win on the PGA TOUR. Hatton hung tough on a brutal weekend, made some hard-fought closing pars, and emerged as a champion.
The trophy and winner’s red cardigan (a fashionable Palmer staple) was given to Hatton on the 18th green in front of an amphitheater filled with thousands of fans. It would be the last tournament contested on the PGA TOUR – and one of the last sporting events staged anywhere – without COVID-19 restrictions. Five days later at THE PLAYERS Championship, the PGA TOUR would shut down for three months.Tyrrell Hatton poses with the trophy after his win last season at Bay Hill. (Keyur Khamar/PGA TOUR)
This week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational will be played in front of a limited gallery, estimated at 4,000-5,000 people a day. Hatton looks forward to any level of atmosphere that fans can provide after competing in near silence for months.
“We’ve missed the fans,” he said. “That’s normally such a huge part of every tournament, the atmosphere that they create. The buzz on a Sunday afternoon is something we’ve all been used to. We love that. I just think having fans back again in any capacity is going to be a great thing for the TOUR.”
Winning at Bay Hill last March sparked a torrid run for Hatton. When he resumed play after a 15-week break, Hatton finished T3 and T4 in his first two starts (RBC Heritage and Rocket Mortgage Classic). Since June, he posted his fifth and sixth European Tour victories – the BMW PGA Championship last fall and Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in January – amid a handful of other top-10 worldwide finishes.
With his financial windfall, Hatton purchased a residence at Lake Nona, about 20 minutes from Bay Hill. It’s a long way from where he started, playing mini-tours in town. Somewhat quietly, Hatton will tee it up at Bay Hill as the sixth-ranked player in the world (he was fifth last week). Among Europeans, only Spain’s Jon Rahm (second) is ranked higher, and Hatton is a lock to play in his second Ryder Cup in September. (European captain Padraig Harrington called Hatton “a Ryder Cup dream.”)
“For me, I look at it as kind of surreal,” said Hatton, who hails from Marlow in County Buckinghamshire. “I don’t sort of change anything with my routine, or think of myself any differently. I try to go to every single tournament and try my best when I get there, and if you are able to play good golf, the world rankings is a byproduct of that.”
At World No. 6, does he believe he will keep climbing?
“It’s really cool to be where I’m at in the World Rankings at the moment, and I’m hoping I can keep playing well,” he said. “It would be nice to try to get higher. We’ll see how we go.”
Hatton, who doesn’t turn 30 until October, often gets left off the list of the game’s top twentysomethings. He has many strengths in his game, and few weaknesses. For starters, few players hit it any straighter, and that helps Hatton create plenty of quality approaches (he ranked fourth in 2019-20 in Strokes Gained: Approach The Green) and birdie opportunities. He averaged 4.55 birdies a round last season, second best on TOUR.
Hatton also ranked 10th in scoring (69.50) and finished seventh in the FedExCup standings despite making only 11 PGA TOUR starts (he finished top 10 in six of them). He is the complete package, with a swing honed by his father, Jeff Hatton, an instructor and clubfitter who build a makeshift golf studio in the garage at Tyrrell’s grandmother’s house in England. (Jeff Hatton is a busy man these days; golfers are asked to book lessons at least a week ahead.) When Tyrrell’s swing feels a little off, which is rare these days, he sends off video to his father to have a look. They often return to discussing the very basics.
Hatton will readily admit that nobody is tougher on Tyrrell Hatton than Tyrrell Hatton. Some of his post-shot antics in the fairways and histrionics after missed putts are the stuff of YouTube legend, on both sides of the pond. (“We all know what the sound is when the teapot is ready,” NBC’s Paul Azinger quipped as Hatton double-bogeyed a hole during last year’s API.) David Feherty made the astute observation that Hatton is nice to everybody but himself.
Hatton even participated in a European Tour video spoof titled “Angry Golfers,” a group session led by fellow Englishman Tommy Fleetwood. The entertaining spot is funny and quite clever, and has received rave reviews. In it, a sheepish Hatton, newest group member, keeps his head bowed as he shamefully introduces himself thusly: “I’m Tyrrell, and I’m an angry golfer.” A playful collection of players that includes Ian Poulter, Henrik Stenson, Matt Wallace and Eddie Pepperell responds in concert, “Hi, Tyrrell.”
“It was good fun filming,” Hatton said. He laughed. “If there was an ‘outtakes’ video released, I think that would be even better. It was great it went down so well, and got such a great reaction.”
The funny part is, as combustible and emotional as Hatton can be on the golf course, he is known as a low-key, very funny, sweet young man off it. Rest assured, all his peers know he is loaded with game.
“He’s always been a really good player, and I think he himself has held himself back,” Poulter, Hatton’s fellow Englishman, said at the Puerto Rico Open. “Like we’ve all said. I think he’s now getting out of his own way, and he’s playing great golf. He’s got a good caddie on the bag – my old, old caddie, Mick (Donaghy) – who is a real good caddie. He is a strong personality, which someone like Tyrrell needs on the bag.
“As we’ve seen, he’s overly vocal, but a good guy – a great guy – off the golf course. Real easy-going, a super kid to hang around with. And his consistency has been impressive.”
A year ago, playing in demanding, firm conditions at Bay Hill – the final round scoring average was 76 – Hatton closed with seven pars to shoot 74 and prevail. He hit great approaches into 17 (whistling a 5-iron past a back flag) and 18 (7-iron safely over the Devil’s Bathtub) to set up stress-free pars and his first TOUR victory. His 4-under 284 was the highest winning score in the 42-year history of the API.
“For me to get my first PGA TOUR win at Bay Hill, it’s such an iconic venue, and having Mr. Palmer’s name attached is a huge honor,” Hatton said. “What he did for golf is incredibly special, and his legacy lives on. As a player, it’s definitely an event on the schedule that you always look forward to playing, and I definitely look forward to defending the trophy.”
For a self-admitted “Angry Golfer,” these days, Hatton seems to be a pretty happy guy.