Having spent the last month playing Call of Duty on his Xbox, Tyrrell Hatton knows a thing or two about shooting down his enemies. Unfortunately, that’s not going to help the young Englishman as he takes on a massive chasing pack in a bid to win the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
The 25-year-old plans to instead rely on his experiences from 2016 as he goes into the final day leading by one shot at the National Course. Hatton, one of the most improved players in the world having climbed to 23rd in the world order following an outstanding season, shot a four-under par 68 yesterday for a 13-under par total.
Those trying to hunt him down have quality and quantity. Reigning US Open champion and world No3 Dustin Johnson, and three-time Abu Dhabi winner Martin Kaymer are among a group of five players trailing him by one shot at 12-under par 204. Then there are five players at 205, and five more, including Open champion and European No1 Henrik Stenson on 206.
Hatton started 2016 ranked 104th in the world and propelled by his maiden win at Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and 10 top-10s (including a tied fifth place at The Open and runner-up finish in DP World Tour Championship) has improved by leaps and bounds.
The Dunhill Links win in St Andrews, the Home of Golf, and the heart-breaking finish in DP World Tour Championship where a last-hole bogey denied him the title, has upped his confidence no end and Hatton is eager to take on Johnson, with whom he is paired for the final round.
“Well, to be honest, I didn’t do a whole lot during the winter break. I spent most of my time playing Xbox and chilling out at home to be perfectly honest. So, I am a little bit surprised to see where I’m at this week, but very happy with one round to go,” said Hatton, who practiced for a week in Dubai before coming to Abu Dhabi.
“Obviously big names are up there, so I’ve just got to focus on my game and try and play as well as I can. I love this place. It’s one of my favourite events of the year, so hopefully I can go out there tomorrow and have a good day.
“I’ll be excited, not nervous – it should be fun playing with another huge name. Obviously, it’s not only Dustin, as a lot of the other top players are up there. One thing is for sure, I will be hitting first on every hole.”
Apart from Johnson, who shot the day’s best round of 64, and Kaymer (72), others to start one shot behind Hatton include England’s Tommy Fleetwood (70), Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat (70) and 2014 Abu Dhabi champion Pablo Larrazabal (69).
Kaymer could easily emerge as his biggest threat, considering how well he plays in the tournament.
The German survived a mid-round wobble, when he dropped shots on back-to-back hole at the turn, but fought back to finish on even-par score.
“Well, I didn’t hit as many good tee shots as the first two days. I missed a few fairways today, and then it’s difficult to create birdie chances. I fought back well, and then the putts didn’t drop in the end. So overall, still a decent round. I think I’m in very good position for tomorrow,” said Kaymer.
“I just really enjoy the challenge tomorrow. I’m not having a lot of pressure of winning the golf tournament. When you lead a golf tournament by three or four shots, you kind of expect yourself to win, and I don’t really have that pressure tomorrow. I know I’ve done very well here in the past, so I can play very free and very aggressive tomorrow.”
The leadergroup, comprising Hatton, Johnson and Larrazabal, will tee off at 12:01.
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