ORLANDO, Fla. – At 4 over par with five holes to play late Friday morning at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard, Englishman Tyrrell Hatton could have been excused for thinking about home weekend plans at nearby Lake Nona.
Then the tournament’s defending champion found something. He birdied the tough par-3 14th, the 15th, the 16th and even the rugged 17th. A lackluster round turned into 67. In for the weekend at even-par 144 despite shooting an opening 77, Hatton then showed up early Saturday and kept his nice run going, shooting 6-under 66. When he walked off the golf course, he was inside the top 10, and when the round ended, long after he’d departed for home, he was T11.
What was Hatton’s sense of accomplishment over what he’d achieved at the 11th hour on Friday, when things appeared so dire and time was running out?
“The beer certainly tasted better,” Hatton said. “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.”
Hatton made six birdies and an eagle on Saturday, benefitting from a slight swing alteration in which he slowed his takeaway. At World No. 6, he is the highest ranked player in this week’s field, and he doesn’t take too many weekends off. In fact, he has made 25 cuts in 28 starts around the globe since the European Tour’s BMW Championship in September 2019. Fueling his desire to play four rounds here this week was the fact that he is not just another competitor, but the tournament’s 2020 champion.
“I mean, I think this week’s kind of more important, obviously defending you kind of want to put up a solid defense,” Hatton said. “Thursday I didn’t actually play that bad, I just couldn’t hole a putt. So 5 over was probably a bit harsh.”
Hatton could have been watching the API from his couch this weekend, but instead he has a Sunday tee time. At 6 under for the tournament, a big swing from Thursday, he is only five shots in back of the lead. One never knows. For Hatton, he’s pleased just to have a chance.