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Tyrrell Hatton outplays Rory McIlroy for Abu Dhabi title

Tyrrell Hatton edges Rory McIlroy in 2021 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship
England's Tyrrell Hatton (left) outplays Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy on Sunday to win the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in the United Arab Emirates' capital.

Englishman shoots bogey-free 66 to win by 4 strokes in European Tour’s 2021 opener and 1st of 3 in a row in Middle East

Tyrrell Hatton surged past overnight leader Rory McIlroy in the European Tour’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, shooting a flawless 6-under 66 on Sunday for a four-stroke victory in the tour’s 2021 opener (scores).

Hatton, 29, of England, tapped in for a two-putt par on the 18th hole at Abu Dhabi Golf Club in the United Arab Emirates, completing a bogey-free round for an 18-under 270. It was his fifth victory on the European Tour.

“It’s surreal,” said Hatton, who jumps in front on the tour’s Race to Dubai standings and in puts himself in position to return to Europe’s winning Ryder Cup team. “I’ve always loved starting my season here in Abu Dhabi, and to now have my name on the trophy with such great champions is an honor.”

Hatton joins major champions Martin Kaymer, a three-time winner in Abu Dhabi, and Shane Lowry, the reigning British Open champion, as winners in the UAE’s capital. He extends the history of English champions at Abu Dhabi since the tournament debuted in 2006 on the European Tour, joining countrymen Paul Casey, Robert Rock, Tommy Fleetwood and Lee Westwood.

Hatton trailed playing competitor McIlroy, the 54-hole leader, by one stroke in a showdown of top-10-ranked players in the world to start the day. McIlroy widened his lead to two shots with birdies on two of his first three holes. But Hatton turned up with heat in the middle of his round, with birdies at Nos. 7, 9, 10 and 13. After his hot start, McIlroy made four bogeys and could manage only a 72. McIlroy finished third at 13-under 275, one stroke behind runner-up Jason Scrivener of Australia, who surged five spots up the leaderboard with a final-round 66.  

“I’ll be interested to see my Whoop numbers,” said Hatton, referring to the fitness-tracking gadget. “I burned a few calories, so I can have a few beers tonight.”

Hatton posted a record fourth victory in the high-dollar Rolex Series. He will be the defending champion in March at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, his lone title on the PGA Tour.

“I don’t feel like I played great this week,” said McIlroy, who opened with an 8-under 64 and held the lead for 60 holes, “but it’s nice to get a competitive week under my belt.”

McIlroy, 31, a four-time major champion, has not won on a professional tour since Nov. 3, 2019, when he claimed the WGC HSBC Champions in Shanghai for his 18th title on the PGA Tour.

In 11 starts at the Abu Dhabi event, dating to his 2008 rookie season, he has posted eight finishes of third or better, including four runners-up.

McIlroy added that he will be looking for “consistency, just to replicate the good ones hole after hole” heading to San Diego for this week’s Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, which also will host the U.S. Open in June.

The Abu Dhabi event was the first of three consecutive stops in the Middle East on the European Tour’s schedule. The tour remains in the UAE this week for the Omega Dubai Desert Classic before heading west across the Arabian Peninsula for the Saudi International on Feb. 4-7.

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