Thursday 19 October 2017

Hatton holds off Fisher on historic day at St Andrews

Tyrrell Hatton celebrates winning the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship with the trophy on St Andrew’s inconic Swilken Bridge. Photo: Reuters/Craig Brough/Reuters
Tyrrell Hatton celebrates winning the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship with the trophy on St Andrew’s inconic Swilken Bridge. Photo: Reuters/Craig Brough/Reuters

James Corrigan

Considering the Old Course has been around longer than any other championship course in the world, history might be thought to be hard to make on the hallowed turf. But both Tyrrell Hatton and Ross Fisher managed to prise open the dusty St Andrews record books yesterday.

After holding a five-shot overnight lead, it was absolutely no surprise to anyone to see Hatton ease to victory and so become the first player to defend the Dunhill Links successfully. But at the very least the 25-year-old was kept honest by a fellow Englishman.

In more than 13,000 professional rounds on the game's most famous links, nobody had shot lower than 62. Until Ross Fisher stepped up.

Indeed, had Fisher holed from the front of the 18th green and so become the first player to record a 59 on the European Tour, it would have been he and not Hatton who would have commanded the headlines. Yet such was the quality of Hatton's four days that such demotion in credit would have been very cruel.

Last year, he shot 23-under to win. This year, he went one better. Do the maths: that is 47-under for eight rounds and that verges on the ridiculous.

"It's feels so great to win here again and to defend my title because proves that last year wasn't a fluke week," Hatton said, following his 66.

"You know, if you told me in the summer that I was going to win again before the end of the year, I probably wouldn't have believed you."

This hot-headed character cut a frustrated figure throughout the months of June, July and August, missing six cuts out of seven, including the US Open, Open and US PGA.

Having also failed to make the weekend at the Masters, it was a clean sweep of Major mediocrity and a season which had promised so much for the young man from High Wycombe, who had risen to world No 14, before seeming to suffer a big crash to earth.

But Hatton, an uncomplicated golfer in the mould of Colin Montgomerie, went back to basics with his swing and decided to part ways with his caddie Chris Rice.

His best friend, Jonathan Bell, was handed the bag for the European Masters at the start of the last month and after a third, an eighth and now a win in his three tournaments working with Hatton, he might find it difficult to return to the Europro Tour to chase his own playing dreams. Bell earned more than £60,000 from Hatton's earnings of £635,000 yesterday.

Reality

"There were perhaps a few too many opinions going on in the summer, and I'm not a very technical person," Hatton explained. "I like to keep things really simple. And you know, I think having a friend on the bag is keeping me relaxed. I feel so much more comfortable with my game."

Hatton chipped in for par at the first and then birdied the next four and to the observer was in cruise control thereafter, as he made it a remarkable 55 holes without a bogey. Yet Hatton revealed the reality was far different to the reality.

"It was nerve-wracking towards the end, however it looked," he said. "Ross pushed me all the way."

For Fisher's part, he conceded that he was chasing immortality rather than Hatton. When the 36-year-old made his fourth birdie in succession on the 15th, which was his seventh in nine holes and, even more incredibly, his 11th in 14 holes, he needed two more in his last three holes to reach the magical 59. And would there have been anywhere more magical to post Europe's lowest ever?

"No there wouldn't," Fisher replied. "And it was a shame not to birdie the last for a 60, but I'm not going to complain too much with a 61."

The consolation was a return to the world's top 50. In third, on 17-under, came the resurgent Frenchman Victor Dubuisson. Rory McIlroy could muster only a level-par 72 to finish on four under in a tie for 63rd. "That round summed up my year," McIlroy said.

On a day of firsts, this completed the first winless campaign McIlroy had suffered since 2008.

The 28-year-old will now take off three months to recover from his long-standing rib injury and get himself in shape to relaunch his career.

Following his British Masters success last week, Paul Dunne had to settle for a share of seventh place after yesterday's two-under 70 left him at on 13-under and 11 shots of pace set by Hatton.

Graeme McDowell, meanwhile, finished on 11-under par after a round of 65 as Shane Lowry was a shot further back after his 69.

Gavin Moynihan finished on eight-under in a share of 47th after signing for a 68 yesterday. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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