13 November 2017
In his exclusive column for Golf News, Tyrrell Hatton reveals how wins at the Dunhill Links Championship and the Italian Open in successive weeks have turned his season from a good one to his best ever, and brought about a return to the world’s top 20 and kindled dreams of Paris
I’ve always been the type of player that feeds off confidence, so I’ve been delighted with the run of good form that I’ve been on since the European Masters at the beginning of September.
After winning the Dunhill, and all that that entails, I honestly wasn’t expecting too much from myself at the Italian Open, which started just four days after my win in Scotland. I went there feeling good about my game, if a little tired, and just looked to keep doing what I was doing and see where it took me.
The course at Milan is tree-lined and pretty tight, which suits my game. I got off to an ok start on Thursday, and managed to grind out an acceptable 69, but there were loads of 64s and 65s out there, so I was already a little off the pace. Rather than go out and practise after my round, I decided to go back to the hotel for a nap to try to recharge the batteries, which turned into a proper four-hour snooze. I guess I was more tired than I thought, but it certainly freshened me up for Friday, when I went out and shot a 64 to put myself into a good position for the weekend.
I then shot 65 on Saturday and went into the final round tied for second with Francesco Molinari, and two shots behind Matt Wallace. Matt had already won this year, and isn’t afraid of going low, so I knew I’d have my work cut out to catch him, while all the Italian fans would be cheering for Francesco to repeat his win from 12 months ago.
I quite like the feeling of being the hunter rather than the hunted, and I went out there looking to get some early red numbers on the board to put some pressure on Matt. In doing that I probably tried to push too hard, and ended up getting a bit frustrated when putts weren’t dropping. The pace of play was pretty slow, and although I set up plenty of scoring opportunities on the front nine, I just couldn’t seem to get any momentum going.
JB, my caddie, kept saying, ‘Good things will come’, and although I found it hard to believe, I tried to stay patient. After 11 holes I’d still had only one birdie, and felt like I was losing touch with the leaders. At that point I kind of thought that the tournament had pretty much gone, so I might as well go for it, and see how far up the leaderboard I could finish. And that’s when things started to turn around.
I hit a great iron into the par-3 12th and holed a six-foot putt for birdie, and then reeled off three more birdies over the next three holes, and, before I knew it, I was right back in the mix. And when Matt bogeyed the 16th, it looked like it was going to be at least a play-off between myself and Ross [Fisher], who had finished second behind me in Scotland. But thankfully I managed to hole a 15-footer at the last to win it.
It’s an amazing feeling to win any tournament out here, but to win back-to-back, and under such different circumstances, was incredible. My whole season had been turned around in the space of just ten days. To win a Rolex Series event was also very special, especially after the way I had performed in them during the summer. They are massive events for the European Tour, and they get strong fields, so it felt great to get one under my belt.
It’s been well documented that JB and I celebrated our success with a meal at Burger King at Milan airport. We missed our first flight back, so we just had to grab something to eat and that was pretty much the only restaurant in the terminal, so a Double Whopper was what we ended up with. I put a picture on Twitter, with me wearing one of the cardboard crowns that come with the kids’ meals. The ‘Food of Champions’ indeed!
The following week, it was straight out to Shanghai to play in the WGC-HSBC Champions, where I finished tied 11th. It was a tough track and was really windy for the final round, when I shot a 74. It was really surprising to see Dustin Johnson blow up, but it was a great win by Justin [Rose], who also seems to play well at this time of year.
Next up was the Turkish Airlines Open. We started the week with a bit of fun by attempting to break the world record for the fastest 500-yard hole completed by four players with a single ball. We were up against teams from France, who broke the record last year, and another from South Africa. England went out last, just after France has re-broken its own record of 34 seconds, and the pressure was on. I teed off, and managed to get one in the fairway, after which Matt Fitzpatrick knocked his fairway wood just short of the green; and then Poults nudged his putt to about three feet, for Matt Southgate to knock in. We had a tense few moments waiting to hear the result – but when we heard we’d won, we all went mental. Our time was 32.70 seconds. If only the rounds on tour were that quick!
As far as the tournament itself was concerned, I was never really in the mix, but I was pleased to shoot 66 in the final round to get into a tie for 16th, and keep the momentum going. Now we’re coming to the business end of the season, and after finishing second in the DP Dubai Championship last year, I’ll be hoping to be put in a strong finish and close out the year in good style.
It’s been great to be spoken of as a potential Ryder Cup player, and to hear some of the comments about what I might be able to bring to the team, but it’s obviously a long way off, and there’s a lot of golf to be played between now and when the team is finalised. For now, I’m just happy to have got some points on the board, and got my myself back into some form. Hopefully, I’ll take that with me into next season, as I would dearly love to make the Ryder Cup team.