A YOUNG MAN WITH AN OLD SWING.

Tyrrell Hat­ton doesn’t look much like Jack Nick­laus. The two-time win­ner on the Euro­pean Tour - both Al­fred Dun­hill Links Cham­pi­onships - doesn’t play golf like the 18-time ma­jor cham­pion ei­ther. But in at least one re­spect the 25-year old English­man who

New Zealand Golf Magazine - - CONTENTS -

English­man Tyrell Hat­ton has been mak­ing great strides over the last two years.

Just as Nick­laus did with his long-time swing in­struc­tor, Jack Grout, Hat­ton starts ev­ery golf­ing year in the same way, go­ing over the ba­sics of his swing with his fa­ther, Jeff.

“I like the way Nick­laus went about it,” says the el­der Hat­ton, a teach­ing pro­fes­sional and cus­tom-club fit­ter. “He says the three most im­por­tant things in golf are set-up, set-up and set-up. I like that phi­los­o­phy. We also fol­low an­other of Jack's doc­trines: when you are play­ing well you don't see your coach. If it isn't bro­ken, there is noth­ing to fix. That isn't the mod­ern way, but it is the way I think it should be. Maybe I am just old-fash­ioned, but in my book if you are play­ing well the last per­son you want to be talk­ing to is your coach.

“Besides, Tyrrell has had the same swing since he was about 17. We did a lot of coach­ing be­fore that. But now all we do is put his swing back to where we got it to when he was 17. All the coach­ing was done to prior to that. All we re­ally fo­cused on was pos­ture, path, plane, stance, bal­ance - all of the ba­sics. If you've not got those right you're not go­ing to be a good player. “Now, be­cause his swing is so “old” - even though he is so young - he doesn't need much help. Be­fore the Scot­tish Open in 2016 he wasn't happy with the way he was play­ing, so I went up there. All we did was fix his set-up. We did noth­ing to his swing. Then he fin­ished sec­ond. It is al­ways sim­ple stuff. The swing should be sim­ple. It's not that com­pli­cated a move­ment.”

It is a phi­los­o­phy and ap­proach that seems to be work­ing. Over the last cou­ple of years, Tyrrell - his pa­ter­nal grand­fa­ther's mid­dle­name - has racked up a se­ries of high fin­ishes at the very high­est level of the game. Fifth in the Ir­ish Open. Sev­enth in the BMW PGA Cham­pi­onship. Sec­ond in the Scot­tish Open. Fifth in the Open Cham­pi­onship. Tenth in the USPGA Cham­pi­onship. First in the Dun­hill Links Cham­pi­onship. Sec­ond in the DP World Tour Cham­pi­onship. The list is both lengthy and im­pres­sive, al­beit he suf­fered through a strange and un­ex­pected de­cline in for­tunes dur­ing the north­ern hemi­sphere sum­mer just past.

In­deed, his sec­ond suc­ces­sive Dun­hill vic­tory at St. An­drews rep­re­sented the high­light of a dis­ap­point­ing sea­son in which Hat­ton missed the half­way cut in all four ma­jor cham­pi­onships. Af­ter a T-4 fin­ish at the Arnold Palmer In­vi­ta­tional in March lifted him as high as num­ber 14 in the world, Hat­ton slumped badly. At one point he failed to qual­ify for the weekend in eight of nine suc­ces­sive. His best ef­fort any­where be­fore a T-3 fin­ish at the Euro­pean Masters in Sep­tem­ber was as long ago as April, a lowly T-29 in the PGA Tour's Her­itage Clas­sic.

All of which saw Hat­ton's world rank­ing fall to 29 be­fore a promis­ing al­though ul­ti­mately dis­ap­point­ing T-8 fin­ish at the Bri­tish Masters. Lead­ing at the half­way stage, Hat­ton fell away badly in a fi­nal round marked by the petu­lance and poor body lan­guage that pro­voked a flurry of public crit­i­cism. Most notably, for­mer Euro­pean Tour pro Gary Evans la­belled Hat­ton “a dis­grace,” telling him to “grow up.”

“I lis­tened to too many opin­ions and just got on a bad run,” said Hat­ton of his sum­mer of dis­con­tent. “If you're not hol­ing putts and hit­ting a few bad shots, you feel like you can't score any worse. That's the sort of phase I went through. My swing feels good now though.”

So it should. Hat­ton has achieved much with a method that has drawn al­most uni­ver­sal praise for its sim­plic­ity and abil­ity to re­peat un­der pres­sure.

“We haven't changed my swing for at least nine years,” says the younger Hat­ton, a grad­u­ate of the Jameiga, Hoot­ers, EuroPro and Chal­lenge cir­cuits be­fore he ar­rived on the Euro­pean Tour in 2014. “But I'm not one of those guys who went straight from am­a­teur golf into the big leagues. I like the way it has gone for me. I've pro­gressed steadily. There has been no feel­ing of rush­ing too far too soon. I've gained con­fi­dence at ev­ery level then moved on.

“All of those tours tough­ened me up, they were all hard schools. On the Hoot­ers Win­ter Se­ries in Florida - where the en­try fee each week is $800 - I broke par in ev­ery round and only made about $6500. It was a case of ‘get bet­ter or get out.' The EuroPro is the same way. The win­ner gets a nice cheque, but you are ba­si­cally play­ing for your own cash. And fin­ish­ing twen­ti­eth ev­ery week isn't go­ing to get it done.

“Iron­i­cally though, my whole game is just that - pretty con­sis­tent. Maybe only my putting varies more than a lit­tle now and then. I just don't hole enough putts. When you see me in con­tention it is al­ways be­cause I've been mak­ing a few.”

Ah yes, con­tention. It is at the sharp end of tour­na­ment play where the two sides of Hat­ton's golf­ing char­ac­ter have been most ex­posed. Where his swing por­trays seren­ity and smooth­ness, the op­po­site has some­times been true of the man from Mar­low's tem­per­a­ment.

“My mind goes back to the last round of the 2014 Scot­tish Open at Royal Aberdeen,” says Sky Sports com­men­ta­tor Ewen Mur­ray, him­self a for­mer Euro­pean Tour player. “There he was play­ing for a big ti­tle, a lot of money and a place in the Open and the head was com­ing off. I re­mem­ber what I said about him on-air: ‘I don't know about you at home but I'm find­ing this just a lit­tle tire­some.'

"All we re­ally fo­cused on was pos­ture, path, plane, stance, bal­ance - all of the ba­sics. If you’ve not got those right you’re not go­ing to be a good player. “Now, be­cause his swing is so “old”- even though he is so young - he doesn’t need much help."

“Hav­ing said that, I ad­mire Tyrrell enor­mously as a player. He's a great put­ter. He be­lieves in his own tech­nique, which is very ortho­dox. He is very ca­pa­ble of win­ning at the high­est level. But he still lets him­self down now and then.”

But not to the ex­tent he once did. Well aware of his propen­sity to lose the rag at mo­ments when calm re­flec­tion is called for, Hat­ton claims to have worked hard to im­prove his re­ac­tion to shots that fail to meet his ex­act­ing stan­dards. But it re­mains an on-go­ing process. In 2016 at Went­worth, he missed a real op­por­tu­nity to win BMW PGA Cham­pi­onship - the Euro­pean Tour's so-called flag­ship event - when im­pa­tience early in the fi­nal round proved fa­tal to his chances.

“I still get an­gry,” ad­mits Hat­ton. “I'm only hu­man. I try my best to keep it un­der wraps, but there are times when that is dif­fi­cult to achieve. And yes, I do show it more than most guys. It just comes out. It's al­most like a red mist. It's a re­ac­tion that comes be­fore I think. But I know I need to get bet­ter in that re­spect.

“Last year, in fact, I def­i­nitely im­proved. The ex­pe­ri­ence I had in fi­nal groups made it clear I need to be more pa­tient. Went­worth brought that home to me. Chris Wood got off to a fast start in the fi­nal round. So I started forc­ing and dropped a few shots. Walk­ing up 18 my cad­die told me to look at the leader board. ‘If you had been twounder to­day you would be lead­ing by one now,' he said. ‘You wouldn't have thought that at the start of the day.' That hit home.”

In­deed, less than two months later, Hat­ton was back in con­tention in the Scot­tish Open at Cas­tle Stu­art. Un­der the sever­est pres­sure on a tightly-packed leader board, the two-time win­ner of the Wy­combe Heights Ju­nior Masters per­formed ad­mirably. Only the ex­cep­tional play of Swe­den's Alex Noren down the stretch pre­vented Hat­ton from achiev­ing his maiden tour vic­tory.

“I just tried to stay pa­tient and I did that pretty well,” he says with some justification. “I was a lot bet­ter than I had been at Went­worth. And I got my re­ward even though I fin­ished sec­ond. I holed a good putt on the last green and that set me up for a good sum­mer.”

Still, for all that, the sub­ject of his son's tem­per­a­ment re­mains a touchy one for the el­der Hat­ton.

“Like most good play­ers Tyrrell has high stan­dards,” he says. “He wants ev­ery shot to be per­fect. I don't think I've ever seen a top player happy with a bad shot. So I'm not sure why cer­tain com­men­ta­tors get a big hung-up on it.

“The key is not let­ting any­thing af­fect the next shot. That is where Tyrrell is now. Plus, lots of play­ers get frus­trated but no one seems to talk about them. One bit of bad press can lead to peo­ple go­ing on and on about it. I think it's un­just. I never want him to lose that as­pect of his personality. I want Tyrrell to be judged on his play, not whether he is walk­ing around with a smile like a clown. He is very laid-back off the course, but he wears a dif­fer­ent head on the course. I like that in a player, as long as it doesn't linger.”

It doesn't seem to be. But it won't get any eas­ier in the af­ter­math of a 2017 sea­son that has, de­spite his ups and downs, raised ex­pec­ta­tions for a young man who has, more than most of his English con­tem­po­raries, flown un­der the golf­ing radar. De­spite that, at least one of those com­pa­tri­ots is in no doubt as to his qual­ity.

“While he hasn't ex­actly come from nowhere - Tyrrell has al­ways been a more than de­cent player - he has clearly im­proved ev­ery year, both as an am­a­teur and a pro­fes­sional,” says com­pa­triot and fel­low pro Ed­die Pep­perell. “I know there are those who ques­tion his tem­per­a­ment. But that is his big­gest as­set in my opin­ion. If you took that out of him he wouldn't be the player he is. He's a nice kid at heart. And he's al­ways been good in the big events.”

One of the big­gest is com­ing up soon enough at Au­gusta Na­tional. One a cer­tain Jack Nick­laus won as many as six times. Hat­ton for the Masters? Fun­nier things have hap­pened.

Tyrell Hat­ton of Eng­land poses for a pic­ture dur­ing the pro-am prior to the start of the Omega Euro­pean Masters in Crans-Mon­tana, Switzer­land. Tyrrell Hat­ton tees off dur­ing the Pro Am tour­na­ment ahead of the Ital­ian Open in Monza, Italy.

Tyrrell Hat­ton cel­e­brates hole­ing the win­ning putt dur­ing The Ital­ian Open at Golf Club Mi­lano - Parco Reale di Monza on Oc­to­ber 15, 2017 in Monza, Italy.

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