BELEK, TURKEY | After nearly two years of trying to manage his damaged right wrist with steroid injections and painkillers, Turkish Airlines Open champion Tyrrell Hatton will have surgery later this month to repair the damage caused when he slipped and fell at Augusta during the 2017 Masters. Hatton, the 28-year-old Englishman who represented Europe in the 2018 Ryder Cup, was 13th in the world in March 2018 but entered the Turkish Airlines Open ranked 48th. He hopes to return to action pain free at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in January.
Despite his wrist woes, Hatton (above) prevailed in a six-man playoff in Turkey after posting rounds of 68-68-65-67 at the Montgomerie Maxx Royal course.
Pádraig Harrington, Europe’s 2020 Ryder Cup captain, ran up a 10 on the par-5 fourth hole in the first round in Turkey, hitting three balls into a lake that guarded the green. It was reminiscent of another high score by Harrington, a 13 on the par-5 17th at the Benson & Hedges International Open at The Oxfordshire in England in 1996. Attempting to reach the green in two, Harrington’s shots repeatedly fell short into a lake causing an Irish golf writer to note: “Harrington elected to hit a 3 wood and lost the election.” To add insult to injury, Breda Harrington, Pádraig’s mother, cut out a drawing of Harrington’s 13 blows that appeared in The Times and had it framed.
“My mum keeps it in a crystal and silver frame in the front room of her house,” Harrington said with a slight grimace. “It’s still there. Every time I go to her house I am reminded of it if I go into the front room.”
Harrington played the first round with the Frenchman Victor Perez, 27, and Austrian Matthias Schwab, 24, two candidates for Europe's 2020 Ryder Cup team who went on to make the playoff in Turkey before falling to Hatton. Perez had his maiden victory on the European Tour at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in September while Schwab had finished in the top 10 in eight of his previous 17 tournaments. “Was that a random pairing?” Harrington was asked. “No,” he replied, smiling knowingly. “There is no such thing as a random pairing.”
Patrick Reed was pleased with his golf in Turkey – he finished T10 after rounds of 71-65-65-71. But the 2018 Masters champion was more pleased to be in his hotel room and receive a telephone call from Tiger Woods, captain of the US Presidents Cup team, saying “I’ve picked you” for the match next month against an International team in Australia.
“It means so much to me,” Reed said. “Representing our country, wearing red, white and blue is something I absolutely love and am so proud of. I am going to let captain Woods decide who plays with who. I just can’t wait to get over there.”
Reed on playing partner Robert MacIntyre, the left-handed Scotsman who is having such a good year, his second on tour: “He hits it a mile. He sure can shorten up a golf course.”
Shane Lowry’s mother, Bridget, was asked recently whether the excitement following Lowry’s victory in the Open at Royal Portrush in July had begun to die down. “It has, thank goodness,” she said. “People were coming up to me and asking me for an autograph.”
Golf is an individual game in the sense that only one person hits the ball. But increasingly players have support teams they can call on when needed. Take Danny Willett, the 2016 Masters champion. After finishing third from last in the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai two Sundays ago, what did he do? “FaceTimed Foles (Sean Foley, his coach) in the US, flew out Kev (Kevin Duffy, a fitness trainer from the United Kingdom) and brought in John (Graham, a putting coach) from New York.” The improvement in Willett’s play was almost immediate, though fleeting. He started with rounds of 67-66 in Turkey and was joint second through 36 holes before fading to a T38 finish.
One of the reasons why Justin Rose is hoping to qualify to represent Great Britain at next year’s Olympics in Tokyo is because he was so moved by his experiences at the last Olympics in Rio in 2016. Rose believes that taking part in the opening ceremony in the Maracana Stadium inspired him to deliver his best golf, which won him the gold medal.
“If I tried to make it just another tournament, who knows what would have happened,” he said. “I feel that any time you wear the crest or the logo of your national team, it inspires you to be the best version of yourself. I think the emotion and the connection I got to Team GB by being at the opening ceremony was part of the reason why I had the energy to play some of my best golf.”
Rose’s wife, Katie, was an international acrobatics gymnast and going to watch that sport with Katie provided another eye-opener for Rose – and another lesson in concentration. “I could not believe the chaos they perform in and around,” he said. “It was like the noise, the announcements, the movement of other disciplines going on, trainers literally walking around the bars while someone is running at the vault. This is four years of blood, sweat and tears and they have to perform and execute their move with chaos going on round them. I thought, ‘God, we’re soft (in golf).’
“Because the crowd in Rio weren’t a golf crowd, 70, 80 percent of them were not necessarily that familiar with golf. There was a lot of cameras, a lot of noise, a lot of movement. But my pre-shot routine was like I’m running for the ball. Once I started, nothing was going to stop me. I was going to play through anything that happened. So something I learned from another discipline helped me.”