Sport Golf

Saturday 25 February 2017

Hatton rises without trace to make Major impression

Jamie Corrigan

England's Tyrrell Hatton. Photo: Danny Lawson/PA Wire.
England's Tyrrell Hatton. Photo: Danny Lawson/PA Wire.

Beef got the headlines, Tyrrell took home the gravy. One of the curious aspects of the 145th Open Championship was the publicity Andrew Johnston garnered for finishing eighth in comparison to his fellow Englishman who came fifth.

Of course, Johnston - the rotund, smiling everyman with the bushy beard - stands out for more reasons than his golf. But in all the hype around the Londoner, the performance of a gritty fighter by the surname of Hatton became rather lost. Not that the 24-year-old, who hails from High Wycombe, the same town as Luke Donald, is concerned.

"I don't begrudge Beef any of the attention he got or is getting," Hatton said. "He's very popular on and off the golf course. The way he interacts with fans at the tournaments and on Twitter, Beef's a character and just what the game needs. Everyone is different, though and, me, I just get on with my own thing. It was great to finish so high up, especially as I'd missed the cut in my previous four Opens. It was a huge two weeks for me."

Johnston has acknowledged Hatton's fantasy fortnight, in which he finished second at the Scottish Open in Inverness to earn his three-hour trip south to Troon. In two Sundays, Hatton leapt from 98th in the world to 55th.

Suddenly in contention for the Ryder Cup, Hatton heads to the US PGA Championship with so much to play for. Cracking the top 50 in the rankings would open up a world of opportunity, giving him the ticket to compete in all the main events and the freedom to consider a global schedule. At the very least, Hatton has another chance to confirm that England's golfing renaissance, led by Danny Willett and complemented by the likes of Chris Wood, Andy Sullivan and Matt Fitzpatrick, has a new young master to follow.

Certainly there is more to Hatton than meets the eye, and in many respects he is as unconventional as Johnston. He barely practises, is coached by his father, Jeff, a seven-handicapper, and on Friday could be found at Nottingham Trent University watching his girlfriend, Emily, receive a first-class degree in fashion.

There is the temperament as well. In contention, Hatton has revealed a tempestuous trait between the ropes, with which a few television commentators have taken issue. But even though Hatton admits he has been "trying better to control my emotions", any harsh criticism should be resisted. It is this fire in the belly that has powered him to the brink of the top league.

A fine amateur, Hatton was overlooked for the Walker Cup in 2011 so turned professional with absolutely no playing privileges but with so much burning conviction. Signed up by John Fay, the founder of Georgia Golf, who oversaw Jamie Donaldson's rise from European Tour journeyman to Ryder Cup hero, Hatton's first taste of professional life was in the Florida winter series of the Hooters Tour, a circuit which has been described as "golf's version of the Hunger Games".

It was a short, sharp lesson in understanding that "it's a dogfight for every dollar out there", Hatton returned home and started on the European mini-tours, playing and winning on the Jamega Tour, taking the same small but significant steps on the EuroPro Tour before graduating to the Challenge Tour and, after two years, earning playing rights on the European Tour in 2014. Once there, he surprised everyone by finishing 36th in the Order of Merit and then 35th last year. And now here he is in ninth place in those standings, wedged between Lee Westwood in eighth and Sergio Garcia in 10th. Call it dreamland, except for one thing.

"It's that win," he explained. "That's the aim because that's why we are out here. I feel it's close but I have to stay patient. I learnt that at Wentworth [at the BMW Championship, where he went into the final round one off the lead]. I dropped a few early on, got down on myself, tried to force it [before finishing seventh]. Afterwards, I realised that had I shot two-under, I would have won. I have a new caddie, Chris Rice, who's really helping me like that, and at the Scottish I was much better. But the next step is to lift a trophy."

Do not totally discount him at the US PGA. Twelve months ago, on his debut proper in the US, he finished 25th at Whistling Straits and with such a contracted spell between Majors because of the Olympics, Hatton can ride the confidence and momentum he gained in the high country. Darren Clarke, the Europe Ryder Cup captain, was impressed and has made contact, aware that at 17th in the standings he is only another couple of rousing displays away from qualifying.

"I have not even thought about that, honestly," Hatton said. "All I can do is take it week by week and try to carry on improving. Everything has happened so quickly so far in my career and it actually seems to be speeding up. One of the best things about Troon was getting to play with Rickie Fowler in the third round and I asked him what Baltusrol was like. He said it's a typical US course and that there will be a great atmosphere. I can't wait to experience it."

Telegraph

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