Englishman outlasts challengers with par on 76th hole, claiming Turkish Airlines Open for his 4th European Tour title and first victory in more than 2 years
BELEK, Turkey – Under a full moon Sunday evening, Tyrrell Hatton finally entered the winner’s circle again using darkness as his friend with a par on the fourth playoff hole to win the Turkish Airlines Open.
The victory, Hatton’s fourth on the European Tour, came after the Englishman struggled to find his game in recent years. Hatton, 28, who had risen to 18th in the world in early 2018, had not won in 25 months, since the 2017 Italian Open. He posted only four top 10s in 2019 and had not been a factor recently on the PGA or European tours entering the Turkish event.
After opening with consecutive 4-under 68s at Montgomerie Maxx Royal, Hatton tossed a 7-under 65 at the field in the third round and earned a spot in the final group on Sunday with Frenchman Benjamin Hebert and Austrian Matthias Schwab, the 54-hole leader (scores).
Schwab, seeking his first victory on the tour, began the day with a three-stroke lead, but he could manage no better than a 2-under 70, opening the door for many challengers.
By the time the final putt dropped in regulation, six players – Frenchman Victor Perez, South African Erik Van Rooyen, American Kurt Kitayama and the final group of Hatton, Hebert and Schwab – finished at 20-under 268. The playoff, requiring two groups of three, was the largest since England’s Mark Foster won a six-man playoff at the 2003 Alfred Dunhill Championship.
Slowly the participants fell off – Van Rooyen with a bogey at the par-5 18th, and Hebert and Perez with pars – leaving Hatton, Kitayama and Schwab, all of whom birdied the first playoff hole, to return to the 18th tee.
Hatton was almost a casualty, chipping across the green for his third shot, but made an improbable chip-in for birdie and survived to play another hole.
“Yeah, Mick [Donaghy, his caddie] said, you know, obviously just chip it in,” Hatton said. “I was kind of getting in my own way with moaning about the little bit of mud from the fairway, and obviously it was just left in a dead spot. Mick said, ‘Yeah, chip it in,’ and I went back to when I was a kid at Harleyford [Golf Club in England], just chipping away, and you'd hole three in a row. That really focused me, and it came out perfect.”
After the second playoff hole and with the arriving darkness, the three remaining participants, Hatton, Kitayama and Schwab, were asked whether they would be willing to play under the lights, a first on the European Tour, but all agreed.
The third playoff hole came down to two missed putts by Kitayama and Hatton – Hatton’s putt would have won the championship – and the American dropped from the playoff, leaving Hatton and Schwab.
On the fourth replay of No. 18, Hatton missed a birdie attempt and Schwab chipped past the hole for birdie but then missed his putt for par, giving Hatton the fourth victory of his career.
“It's so surreal,” Hatton said after receiving the $2 million check in the tour’s sixth of eight Rolex Series premium events. “I actually can't believe that I've won. It's been quite a difficult year in terms of things happening off course, and you know, the last month, I feel like I really found my game again.”
Hatton’s off-course issues date to a slip-and-fall at the 2017 Masters, when he extended his left hand to break his fall.
Painkillers and steroid injunctions have kept him playing golf, but he intends to undergo surgery after the season-ending event at Dubai in two weeks, then go through rehabilitation before he returns to competition.
“I think I was well aware of my world ranking coming into this week, and I knew that I wasn't going to play South Africa to rest my wrist,” said Hatton, alluding to this week’s Nedbank Golf Challenge in Sun City and his spot in the Official World Golf Ranking, in which he rose from 48th to 30th with the victory. “I just really wanted to have a good day today because I felt that if I played well, then that might secure the Masters.”