Tyrrell Hatton wrote his name into the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship history books after becoming the first player to successfully defend the title, closing out a three-shot victory at the Old Course at St Andrews.
The 25 year old from High Wycombe, playing alongside his amateur partner, 50 Shades of Grey actor Jamie Dornan, entered the final round with a five-stroke lead, and he came out on the final day with all guns blazing as he embarked on a run of four consecutive birdies from the second hole to widen the gap to seven.
Despite a concerted effort from fellow Englishman Ross Fisher, who carded 11 birdies in a blistering 61 – breaking the Old Course – to get to 21 under par, Hatton held on to join Ireland’s Padraig Harrington as the only other multiple winner of the unique pro-am tournament.
Victor Dubuisson was ten under par through 15 holes and – much like Fisher at one point – on course to card the first ever 59 on the European Tour, before dropping a shot on the 16th. He eventually signed for a 63 to finish in third place on 17 under. His countryman Grégory Bourdy was one shot further back alongside Robert Rock and Marc Warren.
After opening up with a 68 at the Old Course on Thursday, Hatton added 65s at Carnoustie and Kingbarns, and before returning to the Old Course on Sunday for a final round 66. His total of 24 under was a tournament record, as he became the first player to complete a successful defence. And after shooting 23 under to win last year’s event, he is now 47 under par for his last 72 holes at the Dunhill.
With largely benign weather, and accessible pins, scoring was always going to be low, but Hatton’s performance could hardly have been more impressive. Long and straight off the tee, accurate iron play, and a hot streak with the putter, he was bogey-free from the 17th hole on Thursday until the end of the tournament.
Hatton has shown plenty of character to return to the winner’s circle following a summer in which he lost his game completely. From a position of 14th in the world he went on a desperate run, missing the cut in all four majors and five cuts in a row in July and August.
“I wouldn’t say I was close to panicking at any point, but I did hear too many opinions,” he said.
Since changing his caddie and appointing Jonathan Bell, a childhood friend and a pro himself, Hatton has finished third, eighth and now has the victory that completes his return to the game’s highest tier. As for Bell, who earned £60,000 as his 10 per cent cut, he’s building up some useful funds in his bid to join Hatton on the European Tour one day. With plenty of big-money tournaments coming up, and Hatton in this mood, he could have quite a war chest for his own quest come the end of the year.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling to win twice at the Home of Golf, but this felt much harder than last year,” said Hatton. “All credit to Ross, what a round from him. I just feel very happy to get over the line.”
Meanwhile, Rory McIlroy’s penance for being among the back markers after 54 holes was to play the course the wrong way round.
Rather than finish his season in front of the Royal and Ancient clubhouse, he ended it at the ninth. He shot 72, one of only seven players among the 68 competing who failed to break par. “It was a round that summed up my year,” said the ever-candid McIlroy. “Stuck in neutral and going nowhere.”
McIlroy will now have a three-month sabbatical to restore his health and reboot parts of his game. At least his ambition remains undimmed by this season’s problems. “My ultimate career goal remains to catch Gary Player’s total of nine majors and become the best non-American golfer of all time,” said the four-time major winner.