The Englishman has now become one of Europe’s big guns and it’s time to move up yet another level
For all the talk of Rory, Bryson and Brooks and world domination Tyrrell Hatton is now above the lot of them on the world rankings. At the last Ryder Cup in Paris the Englishman was a small cog in the wheel, partnering Paul Casey in each of the four balls, before getting turned over by Patrick Reed in the singles. He returned one point from his three outings.
Fast forward to Whistling Straits in September and Hatton will likely be front and centre of all European efforts. There’s an argument, and quite a strong one, that he’s now become Europe’s strongest player.
Not so long ago Hatton was thought of as being streaky, definitely a hot-head, and someone who would probably always reside in the world’s top 50 but not in the upper echelons of it, now he is seen as ‘a captain’s dream’.
Speaking in Dubai this week Padraig Harrington described Hatton like this.
“He's everything you'd want in a player for sure. Obviously plenty of good golfers out there but Tyrrell does seem to have it when he comes under pressure on the big occasions with big players staring him down, like he was going against Rory last week and going against Tommy Fleetwood. He's a Ryder Cup captain's dream, isn't he. That's exactly what you want, a player that has that gumption and can really get it done.
“Even though he's won four times over the last year, they have been nicely spread out and it not flash-in-the-pan stuff. He keeps delivering. Very impressive with his win in Bay Hill last year down the stretch and again he proved it last week. Rory took an early lead, and it would have been easy for Tyrrell to play nicely and finish second or third but he took that tournament by the scruff of the neck, and from a captain's point of view it was very impressive. That's the sort of stuff I'd like to see all my players doing.”
The obvious blip on Hatton’s CV is his major one. In among the jumbled nature of the 2020 majors Hatton failed to make the weekend in all three of them though there have been five top 10s in recent years so this seems more of an anomaly rather than anything else. If anything, the bigger the stage, the bigger the performance - the victory in Abu Dhabi was Hatton’s fourth Rolex Series victory while his other wins came at the Dunhill Links (twice) and at the Arnold Palmer in the final event before the first lockdown.
Golf, and any sport, is terrible for knee-jerk reactions to the odd day here and there. Rory McIlroy contended from day one in Abu Dhabi and ended the week in third and yet now the jungle drums are already beating, just one tournament into a new season, about his ability to close things out and whether he is a busted flush in the majors.
Hatton’s star, just two and a half years McIlroy’s junior, on the other hand is very much on the up. In between them, age wise, is Tommy Fleetwood. In the next few years it could be an incredible time for British and Irish golf.
McIlroy got to witness Hatton’s efforts first hand over the weekend in Abu Dhabi and, Rory being Rory, there were plenty of compliments.
“A 66 with no bogeys in those conditions was really, really impressive. It’s just been a continuation for Tyrrell, really. He’s been really impressive in the last year or so. What is it? Four wins in 20 starts. And they’ve all been big events. Turkey, Wentworth and now Abu Dhabi, all Rolex Series events boasting world-class fields and winning his first title at Bay Hill at the Arnold Palmer Invitation. That’s a huge event in America. Tyrrell’s played some great stuff and deserves his place in the world’s top five.
“Of course, he has what it takes to win a major. Like all of us, he just needs it to be his big week because he has the tools for the job both physically and mentally. He did well on his Ryder Cup debut but he is an even better player now and can and will be a huge asset for Padraig’s team in September.”
Hatton’s week began as the star of the show in the European Tour’s viral Angry Golfers video. He was asked to play the awkward one with anger issues and he was the butt of most of the jokes – like what was to follow later in the week his delivery and timing were perfect. As every year passes Hatton’s temperament, form the outside looking in, continues to improve though there’s a big argument that this is what makes him tick and, if he can refine the silly bits that add nothing, then you’ve got something very special.
A few years ago Hatton described his temperament as maybe 6/10 on a good day and 3/10 and on a bad one. These days, much like his world ranking, things are on the up.