No sign of 'angry' Tyrrell Hatton after opening up huge lead in Abu Dhabi

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
James Corrigan
·3 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Tyrrell Hatton - GETTY IMAGES
Tyrrell Hatton - GETTY IMAGES

In the latest of the European Tour’s celebrated social-media spoofs, Tyrrell Hatton plays the lead role in “Angry Golfers”, a skit about a number of famous pros attending a therapy group for their on-course tantrums. However, after two days of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship here, it is fair to comment that Hatton is blissfully content and that it is rivals who are probably in need of mutual support.

When Hatton left Abu Dhabi Golf Club on Friday, he was 12-under and five clear of his nearest pursuers, a group including Rory McIlroy. But as Hatton pointed out: “I can’t get ahead of myself because I haven’t even finished my second round yet.”

The fog delays of Thursday meant that half of the field had to come back early on Friday morning to finish off.

Yet Hatton’s golf over his first 13 holes hardly inspired any doubt that he would not emerge as halfway leader by lunchtime. If anything will take him to the Falcon Trophy it is eagles. He recorded two in his first-round 65 and another on the second on Friday, before he reeled off four birdies in succession from the seventh.

On days such as this it is barely credible to figure that Hatton has a reputation for hot-headedness. No doubt, the 29-year-old has improved over the last few years, with the employment of no-nonsense caddie, Mick Donaghy, although, in truth, his casting as “Mr Angry” was overplayed by a few critics who failed to distinguish between fiery self-admonishment and brattish behaviour.

Regardless, Hatton is one of the most laidback characters outside of the ropes, without a hint of arrogance. This can be seen in his willingness to accept being the butt of the joke of the Tour’s social media department.

“I've always been one to kind of take the mick out of myself - I guess I get it in there before other people can,” Hatton said. “I did actually try to work with a sports psychologist, but I think I fried their brain, as well. The video is being released by the Tour this weekend and maybe that’s not the best timing, because I'm acting pretty comfortably out there. But then, I’d be a bit worried if I was flying off the handle in the first two rounds of the opening tournament of the year.”

Hatton is simply carrying over the form he displayed in 2020. The 29-year-old enjoyed his best year to date, breaking his maiden tag on the PGA Tour when winning the Arnold Palmer Invitation in Orlando and then, following the lockdown resumption, the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

“It's great that I've kind of come out of the blocks running in 2021 and I’m just hoping that can continue,” he said. “What’s surprised me has been the strength of my shortgame. Because I’ve been concentrating mainly on my long game in practice these last few weeks.”

A third victory in 10 months would carry Hatton into the world’s top five, a rarefied atmosphere previously visited by only six Englishmen. He could also leapfrog McIlroy to claim the honour of top Great British and Irish player in the rankings, although the former world No 1’s challenge here is far from done. It was scrappy stuff by the Ulsterman, as he went through his 14 holes in one-over, but he is still in touch alongside France’s Romain Langasque (who has two to play), Australia’s Jason Scrivener and Thai Jazz Janewattananond.

Tommy Fleetwood, a two-time winner here, highlighted the difference a day can make in the desert winds. He was three-over after 10 holes when the hooter sounded on Thursday, but returned to play his next 25 holes in a bogeyless nine-under. “I’m back in the tournament,” Fleetwood, after a 67 took him to six-under. “It’s just the way this game goes.”