BELEK, TURKEY | With a fine sense of the dramatic, constantly gesticulating when a putt slipped by the hole or tossing a club when he hit a bad shot, Tyrrell Hatton survived a six-man playoff that concluded under floodlights to win the Turkish Airlines Open, his fourth European Tour title. Hatton, a 28-year-old Englishman who had been in the winning Europe Ryder Cup team in Paris last autumn, had to play the 18th hole at the Montgomery Maxx Royal course four extra times to overcome the challenge of five rivals before he could get his hands on the $2 million first prize, by far the biggest of his life.
Hatton has been beset by an injured wrist for some time so this win will have eased some of his pain. He is known as a good ballstriker who tends to be too self-critical. Mike Donaghy, his veteran caddie, has said that again and again during rounds he has had to calm Hatton down. “He gets far too down on himself,” Donaghy said.
“It’s surreal,” Hatton said. “I mean I can’t actually believe that I’ve won. It has been a difficult year in terms of things happening off course but this past month I have really found my form.”
One’s heart went out to Matthias Schwab, who had led either on his own or jointly from the start and still was ahead on the 72nd tee. Even though he is in only his second year as a professional, Schwab, 24, seemed poised and controlled. After a run of very good golf in recent weeks he looked as though he was going to become the second Austrian to win on the European Tour this year only a month after Bernd Wiesberger had won the Italian Open.
Then Schwab faltered slightly on the par-5 18th, which he had birdied in his three previous rounds, and his lead was gone. A par for a round of 70 kept him on 20-under par, and five other men had reached that total as well, most by making birdie on the 72nd hole. The playoff involving Schwab, the two French golfers Benjamin Hébert and Victor Perez (last rounds of 67 and 65, respectively), Erik van Rooyen from South Africa (65), American Kurt Kitayama (64) and Hatton (67) became the third six-man playoff on the European Tour.
It didn’t end there. The first time down the extra hole, Perez, van Rooyen and Hébert were eliminated. The second time Schwab, Hatton and Kitayama all took 5s and the third time, this time played out under floodlights to reckon with the gathering gloom, Hatton and Schwab birdied the hole.
Just when we were wondering whether the tournament would be finished in the same week as it started, Schwab missed a 4-foot putt that would have tied Hatton when playing the 18th, the playoff hole, for the fourth time. He bogeyed the par-5 for the first time all week.
It was a tournament notable for low scoring and high temperatures, good weather and soft greens. Provided the necessary sponsorship continues, this resort part of Turkey, a 90-minute flight from Istanbul down by the Mediterranean, seems to have cornered the market in events at a time of the year when much of the rest of Europe is cold and wet. There were few complaints from the players.
A three-peat, the rather unattractive name for three victories in a row in the same event, was beyond Justin Rose. His form in Turkey mirrored his form for much of the season. There was the good, the two 67s to start with, the bad, a 73 in the third round, and a fighting finish, a 68 with three birdies in his last five holes.
“I needed one more gear to get to 19 or 20 under and I couldn’t get to it,” said Rose, who finished T21.
At the end Rose paid tribute to Mark “Fooch” Fulcher, his former caddie, who underwent heart surgery earlier this year and will start working for Francesco Molinari next year.
“I am happy for Fooch,” Rose said. “I am not sure where his health is at the moment. He has been a caddie all his life. He needs to be a caddie. He and Francesco are a good fit. Good luck to them.”
RESULTS | RACE TO DUBAI