Tyrrell Hatton learnt a painful lesson here on Friday. The young Englishman, who has made such dramatic strides into the world’s No 20, was eliminated from the WGC Dell Match Play after a moment of madness in a play-off as he went to tap in a two-foot putt.
Having been beaten by Rafael Cabrera Bello, the 25-year-old was tied at the top of his four-man group with the Spaniard and the American Charles Howell III. So the trio went to the first tee for a sudden-death shootout. Hatton played a wonderful approach to 10 feet and had that putt to go through to the weekend knockout stages.
But Hatton pulled it left and in his ensuing frustration it all went wrong. As he addressed the ball, Hatton accidentally moved it, but after calling a penalty on himself he carried on and holed it. If he had conferred with the referee then, under a local rule which Hatton failed to read, he could have replaced the ball under no penalty. His haste cost him a two-shot penalty.
“The referee came over and asked if I’d replaced the ball. I didn’t, I just knocked it in,” Hatton explained. “He told me if I had replaced the ball it wouldn’t have been classed as a stroke. But I didn’t and nowI’m going home. To be honest, I didn’t knowthe rule. I wasn’t really thinking at that stage. It’s a bitter pill to swallow.”
Hatton has the week to regroup back in Florida, before making his debut at the Masters. That prospect should quickly allow him to forget this unfortunate incident.
With Matt Fitzpatrick and Lee Westwood also losing out in play-offs, it was left to Ross Fisher and Paul Casey to carry English hopes into the last 16.
Fisher beat Louis Oosthuizen on the second play-off hole, after earlier dispatching Jim Furyk 4&2m to earn himself a shot at Bubba Watson and quite possibly, depending on the complex ranking system, a return ticket to Augusta after a five-year absence. Bonuses do not come much bigger.
Casey made it three out of three with a 4&3 win over the South African Charl Schwartzel and plays the Japanese Hideto Tanihara, with Jordan Spieth joining Rory McIlroy in the departure lounge.
McIlroy halved his dead rubber against the Argentine Emiliano Grillo, but afterwards denied that he would go into the Masters undercooked. The world No 2 has only played 14 competitive rounds this year, chiefly because of the rib injury which sidelined him for almost two months after his opening start of the campaign.
The Ulsterman’s action here was limited because of Gary Woodland’s withdrawal due to “family reasons”, but he resisted the urge to add next week’s Houston Open to his schedule.
“Yes, since coming back from the injury, I've played just 10 competitive rounds,” he said. “But I felt good and I've played well. Right now, I can't see a downside to not having played as much as I planned to. I feel really healthy and freshness could help especially mentally, going in there and not being drained. But no, I wont be trying to emulate this build-up even if it does work this year.”
At least Danny Willett had a positive result to take into his Masters defence. The Englishman has been on a dreadful run, his fifth in Malaysia last month being his only top 50 of the year thus far. And his opening two matches here did not inspire confidence, as he fell 4&2 and 6&5 to KT Kim and Bill Haas respectively.
It meant that his match against Scotland’s Russell Knox was an irrelevance as far as Willett was concerned. But in this form he will take anything in the run up to the defence of his Masters title. “It just shows that even a blind squirrel can find a nut every now and again,” Willett said with a laugh after his 4&2 success. Commendably, he still retains his humour
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- Louis Oosthuizen
- Jordan Spieth
- Jim Furyk
- Rory McIlroy
- Lee Westwood
- Paul Casey
- Bubba Watson
- Danny Willett
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