Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Hatton in position to win in Honda debut

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tyrrell Hatton admits that he came into this week with few expectations.

The Englishman is a non-member on the PGA Tour, playing this week on a sponsor invite and making his first U.S. start since the Wyndham Championship in August. Prior to his arrival at the Honda Classic, Hatton hadn’t set foot in Florida since playing the mini-tour circuit in 2012.

But he has required little prior experience to tame the Champion Course, shooting three straight sub-par rounds to sit alone in second place, four shots behind Rickie Fowler heading into the final round.

“At the start of this week, I didn’t feel very comfortable with my game,” he said. “If you’ve seen me hit balls on the range this week, you probably wouldn’t believe where I am in the tournament. I don’t really enjoy the range too much. I’d much rather play.”

While Hatton has only won once on the European Tour, he entered the week as one of the highest-ranked players in the field at No. 18. He’s gotten better with each round so far, culminating with a 4-under 66 in the third round – results that have come despite his unfamiliarity with chipping out of thick Bermuda rough.

“Just frustrates me a little bit. I find it really inconsistent,” he said. “Sometimes it will come out and go like 3 feet in front of you, and you haven’t sort of made a bad swing. The next one, you do exactly the same and it will come out hot and goes like 15 feet past the hole.”

Hatton’s best prior finish on Tour came last summer, when he tied for sixth at the Open Championship. That also marked his last rendezvous with Fowler, as the two played together during the third round at Royal Troon.

They’ll tee it up together again in Sunday’s final pairing, where Hatton will hope to erase a hefty deficit and become the first to win his Honda Classic debut since Padraig Harrington in 2005.

“I’m just going to go out there tomorrow and play as well as I can,” he said. “Whatever happens, happens. I can only control what I do and just have to see how it goes.”

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