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Tyrrell Hatton lashed out at the closing hole at Yas Links, calling it “one of the worst par-fives I’ve ever seen” after taking a quadruple-bogey nine that all but wrecked his hopes of a successful title defence in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Hatton also double-bogeyed the same hole on Friday, meaning that he had dropped six shots in his past two visits to the 646-yard monster. Otherwise, he would be eight-under and within just three of the 54-hole pace set by Scotland’s Scott Jamieson going into today’s final day. As it is, the 30-year-old is on two under.
Hatton, the highly charged character from High Wycombe, is known for wearing his heart on his sleeve and as he stewed on a 71 that should obviously have been so much better, he did not hold back, first blurting out his denunciation of the concluding test at the course hosting its first DP World Tour event and then explaining exactly why he holds it in such disdain.
Somewhere the ears of Kyle Phillips – the renowned architect who also created Kingsbarns, the celebrated Fife links – would surely have been burning.
“For the last two days, I’ve clearly played that hole as well as it has been designed,” Hatton said. “What’s wrong with it? Where do I start? It shouldn’t have a bunker in the middle of the fairway and it shouldn’t be over 600 yards from a forward tee. If you hit a good drive as a pro, you should at least have the chance for the green in two.”
For the record, Hatton hit his drive into the bunker and, from a poor lie, had no other option but to steer it on to the 10th fairway. From there he found the water and then was obliged to drop into the cabbage – “somebody could easily hurt their wrist playing from that stuff” – before locating a green-side bunker.
Two further swishes in the sand left him with a two-putt for what he believes is his worst competitive score on a hole in more than a decade and a half. “I certainly can’t recall ever having a nine as a pro before,” he said. “I was probably about 14 the last time it happened. I’m really frustrated because I thought I played pretty well yesterday and still somehow shot a 77. So today, I am six under through 13 holes, have got all the shots back and then came the 18th.”
Shane Lowry almost suffered his own agonies on that ferocious finisher, his second narrowly evading the water after a mix-up with his caddie. The good fortune allowed the Irishman to escape with a par and his 67 put him in a tie for second with Thomas Pieters (67), one off the 11-under lead of Jamieson (68).
With respect to Jamieson – the 38-year-old going for his first title in 10 years – Lowry must be the favourite, having won this tournament in 2019, albeit when it was staged at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club. Lowry used that triumph as a springboard to that year’s Open, which he won so memorably at Royal Portrush.
Rory McIlroy, who only scraped inside the cut, fired a much-improved 67 to move to two under and give himself a shout of starting off the year with a top 10.