© Provided by The GuardianPhotograph: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
A day in the desert supposedly set up to endorse Rory McIlroy's chances of claiming an elusive Green Jacket at Augusta National in 11 weeks' time instead delivered only further evidence that Tyrrell Hatton should be targeting majors of his own.
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Hatton brushed McIlroy aside at the Abu Dhabi Championship, thereby delivering a fourth worldwide success since late 2019. When golf's world rankings are published on Monday, Hatton could find himself above McIlroy and as high as fifth. The 29-year-old from High Wycombe is worthy of more widespread plaudits than have arrived this far.
In this case, bare numbers do not lie. Hatton was a shot adrift of McIlroy with 18 holes to play. The scale of Hatton's fortitude is emphasised by his margin of victory: four, at 18 under par. A painful day for McIlroy - who made a 72, against Hatton's 66 - was summed up by his not even finishing second. The Australian Jason Scrivener claimed that place as McIlroy closed in third.
Hatton has all but secured a place in Europe's Ryder Cup team for later this year already. He is entitled to further, lofty goals. "Everyone in their career, their goal is to win a major and I'm no different," said Hatton. "Obviously the majors last year for me were disappointing, I missed the cut in all three. But golf's a funny game. You're trying your best every single week, and some weeks, it sort of works out better than others. So I'm hoping that in 2021, the majors fall in good weeks for me." © Photograph: Ross Kinnaird/Getty ImagesTyrrell Hatton poses for with the trophy following victory at the Abu Dhabi Championship.
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Hatton has struck up a wonderfully successful partnership with the charismatic Scottish caddie Mick Donaghy. "Mick has won four times the amount that I have," said Hatton with a smile. That point relates to experience. "I love our partnership and working together. I'm hoping that continues for a very long time." © Provided by The GuardianTyrrell Hatton (left) and Rory McIlroy bump fists on the 18th green after the Englishman's win at the Abu Dhabi Championship. Photograph: Andrew Redington/Getty Images
McIlroy plans to play at the PGA Tour's event at Torrey Pines in the coming days. The same venue will host this year's US Open. "I don't feel like I played great this week," McIlroy said. "I felt like I was managing my game a bit. It was nice to get a competitive week under my belt to see where my game is and what I need to do to keep on improving.
"There's a few holes where it sort of gets away from me. So it's about a little more consistency. Being able to replicate the good ones hole after hole and then day after day until you put four rounds together."
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For an early spell, this looked like being McIlroy's day. Birdies at the 2nd and 3rd strengthened his grip on the championship. Yet a three-putt bogey at the 4th was compounded by a series of tee shots that went to the right.
Hatton, meanwhile, reeled off five birdies between the 7th and the 16th. The champion did not drop a stroke all day, with McIlroy's presence apparently an inspiration rather than any cause to exhibit nerves. A key moment arrived at the 10th as a Hatton birdie putt found the bottom of the cup when apparently destined to fly off the green. As McIlroy could only match that four, the outcome appeared a formality.
Rafa Cabrera Bello closed with a 69 for fourth. David Lipsky shared fifth with Marc Warren at minus 11. Tommy Fleetwood and Matt Wallace were among a quartet to tie seventh.