Tyrrell Hatton will not go quietly in his Arnold Palmer Invitational title defense
After his title defense began with a disastrous 6 over start through his first 13 holes, Tyrrell Hatton rallied first to make the cut at (...)
After his title defense began with a disastrous 6 over start through his first 13 holes, Tyrrell Hatton rallied first to make the cut at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and then to vault into striking distance of the leaders with a Saturday 66 at Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Orlando.
“Defending you kind of want to put up a solid defense,” Hatton said.
One year after he survived brutal conditions to shoot 4-under 284, the highest winning score in the API’s 42-year history, Hatton opened with 5-over 77 and was tied for 107th in the 123-man field.
“I didn’t actually play that bad, I just couldn’t hole a putt,” he explained.
But since the 6 over start for his first 13 holes, Hatton has turned his frown upside down and played 12 under his last 41 holes. What once looked like it would be a short week at Arnie’s Place has instead shown Hatton’s mettle.
“He’s got that burning desire to be great,” NBC’s Peter Jacobsen said. “He reminds me a lot of Ian Poulter. He’s just a bulldog, who fights and claws for everything he gets.”
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With his back up against the wall, Hatton made four birdies in a row beginning at No. 14 to make the cut with room to spare.
“Birdieing four of the last five yesterday was really important,” said Hatton, who shot 67 on Friday, “and just kind of thankful to actually have a chance to go out and give myself a chance at playing well this weekend.”
Having experienced the thrill of victory at Bay Hill, Hatton was asked what it meant to rebound from his bad start.
“The beer certainly tasted better. What did I have last night? It was Lagunitas — is it Hazy Wonder?” Hatton said. “Yeah, I love a hazy IPA. So, I had a beer and then a couple of glasses of red. But, yeah, obviously you always sort of feel good going home when you’ve had a good finish to get through to the weekend. No one likes missing cuts, although we’re all going to miss cuts throughout your career, it’s just part of what we do. Yeah, so always good to finish strong and make the weekend.”
Hatton was in the zone in the third round. He made six birdies and an eagle and none of the putts was from longer than six feet, four inches.
“Just felt like I slowed my takeaway down a little bit and that was the key to kind of hitting a lot more good shots today,” Hatton said.
Unfortunately, he made two bogeys on the front nine – at Nos. 3 and 8 – and made the turn in 35. But he heated up at the turn with three straight birdies beginning at No. 10. The topper was the 6-iron Hatton struck from 201 yards. Fairway bunker shots rank alongside having a tooth pulled for Hatton, but this one was a beauty and he let his caddie know.
“I said to Mick, ‘I surprised myself with that one,’ ” Hatton said.
Eagle gets @TyrrellHatton to -6 on the day.
The defending champ is within three @APInv.#QuickHits pic.twitter.com/wWhPoq9ayk
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 6, 2021
He parred in for 66 to improve to 6-under 210. Quite the turnaround after being 11 strokes off the lead following the first round. According to Justin Ray of 15th Club, no player in more than 50 years has won on the PGA Tour with an opening-round 77 or higher. So, how far back can Hatton be to have a chance on Sunday?
“That’s kind of hard to say,” he said. “I mean, obviously, if there’s one guy that runs away from it and I’m not too far from the guys that are like tied second or whatnot, then there’s always a slight chance. But as it stands and I think if the weather stays as it is I genuinely don’t think that I’ll have a chance to win tomorrow. But that’s OK. The damage was done on Thursday and I’m just, I’m quite happy to be playing the weekend, to be honest.”
And playing like a defending champion should play.