Back-nine first at TPC Sawgrass even gets Tyrrell Hatton smiling
For once, it seems, Tyrrell Hatton was smiling as he walked off the golf course.
“You’ll have to clip that,” Hatton quipped.
There would be no bemoaning this time.
Hatton had just hit a beautiful cut 4-iron out of the pine straw from 203 yards out to 11 feet at TPC Sawgrass’ par-4 finishing hole. Laying up, Hatton said, never crossed his mind – even with a poor lie that prevented Hatton from starting the shot with his clubface behind the ball.
And when Hatton rolled in the putt for a fifth straight birdie, he became the first person in Players Championship history to shoot 7-under 29 on the back nine in a final round. It was a finish that punctuated a closing 65 that rocketed Hatton up to 12 under, which at the time was good for solo second behind runaway leader Scottie Scheffler.
He eventually ended up in that position, five shy of Scheffler's winning score.
“Just pretty mad two and a half hours in the end, I guess, from standing on the 10th tee,” Hatton said. “So, really happy with how it's played out. Yeah, good day's work.”
Then Hatton pulls off THIS shot from the trees en route to a closing birdie @THEPLAYERSChamp. He enters the clubhouse at 12 under, two strokes off the lead. pic.twitter.com/aRPD8Z9Znc https://t.co/IIdGJzb1FA
— Golf Central (@GolfCentral) March 12, 2023
Hatton parred each of his first seven holes before sticking his tee shot to 6 feet at the 211-yard, par-3 eighth and sinking the putt. He’d give it right back, though, a hole later, as he block-faded a drive into the water at the par-5 ninth.
He ended up making a “good 6,” but Hatton, unsurprisingly was fuming as he headed toward the back nine.
“It was a long walk,” Hatton conceded, “so I had a lot of time to semi-cool off.”
Whatever insults he hurled at himself, it worked. Hatton hooped a 20-foot birdie putt at No. 10, and he got up and down for birdie at No. 12, the short par-4. He then birdied Nos. 14-17 without needing to hole a putt longer than 9 feet. His closing birdie gave Hatton his best career score in 18 Players rounds by three shots. His previous best was the 68 he shot Saturday.
After three straight missed cuts at TPC Sawgrass, Hatton has now finished T-13 and potentially now second in two straight trips.
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But what does he really think about Pete Dye’s stern test? Remember this is a guy who in the past 12 months has disapproved both Augusta National and Southern Hills.
Maybe he was just in a delightful mood, but Hatton had great things to say.
“Yeah, it's funny, sounds horrible to say something positive, I guess, but it's one of my favorite golf courses,” Hatton said. “Although I haven't generally, apart from this week and last year, I guess, I haven't really done that well here in the past. There's a couple of tough tee shots for me, like the tee shot on 2, it's hard. With the woods, it's always a left-to-right [hole], and I don't ever try and shape it, so naturally I'm a little bit uncomfortable with those kind of shots. Then 18 visually is not a nice tee shot, again, if you fade the ball. So, there's a couple of tee shots that I probably struggle with more than other lads that have a more natural right-to-left or drawers of the ball.
“But I think it's such a pretty golf course, visually on the eye.”
Correction: He was mostly positive.
“I mean aside from 8,” Hatton added. “We don't need 235-yard par-3s; that kind of ruins it a bit.
“I got to say something negative, obviously.”