Some might suspect that a smile from Tyrrell Hatton is as rare on a golf course as a £2.25million second-place prize, but no one doubts what this extraordinary record, equating to nine here at Sawgrass, meant for the Englishman.
There was no stopping the imperious Scottie Scheffler, the American who drove home to beat Hatton by five strokes to return to world no. Winning check received. His 88-year-old grandmother, Mary, followed him on every single hole. Be sure, that was the Scheffler move.
But from where Hatton stood in the field after playing the ninth bogey, his performance to finish second and earn his biggest payday of almost £1million defied belief.
“I was five under on the 10th tee and I think I was kind of in a tie for 34th,” said Hatton. “I was struggling with a block fade, which is just not a pretty shot in a left-right wind. But it’s only been two pretty crazy hours and I’m really happy with how it went.
“Yes, it’s all about winning, but if you’d told me it was just Scottie I would have been very, very pleased.”
The evidence was written all over the 31-year-old from Buckinghamshire after his incredible second on the 18th. By then he had handled six birdies in eight holes, starting the attack with a 20-foot shot on the 10th and hitting his tee shot four feet on the infamous 17th hole.
Hatton pushed his drive deep into the trees on the par 4 of the 18th and appeared to be blocked by the green. But with a four-iron on a “dubious” pine-thatch lie, he bravely took aim at the lake on the left before blinding it back to 10 feet.
“It was risky but at that point I didn’t want to run away and I didn’t even think about it,” he said, before poking fun at his own reputation for being an angry golfer. “When I play golf, you don’t often see me smile, so it was that good, even though I might have been a bit lucky.”
Hatton duly rebuilt the yardage to make five straight birdies to close his 65 and later his caddy Mick Donaghy joked that his boss had been in a similar position on Saturday’s final hole and magicked it a few inches over have opportunity. “So this wasn’t so good,” said the Scot flatly.
Along with the tremendous stroke of luck – which eclipsed his victorious success at the Arnold Palmer Invitational – he gave Hatton a place in Sawgrass history by joining a group that included Rory McIlroy, who ran the inner half of the Stadium Course played in 29 shots.
Plus, no Englishman has ever done better at the PGA Tour’s flagship event. Climbing back into the top 20 in the world, Hatton has come a long way to earn a place in the top 50 on the FedEx points list for the PGA Tour, which will host the controversial 20-million-dollar designated events next year – Dollar exchanges, limited fields and No. 1 contest will be cut.
Scheffler is definitely one of these “Made Men”. This comfortable success was truly impressive as he was able to amble through this windy and decidedly treacherous test with his unrivaled ball stroke. The five birdies he reeled off the eighth killed the competitor dead as he shot a 69 for a 17-under total. All four of Scheffler’s laps were in the 60s – a remarkable achievement at this circuit.
In 13 months and 27 events, the 26-year-old has won six tournaments, including the Masters. The Texan will travel to Augusta in three weeks with great confidence in his defense. He was paired with Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy in the first two rounds and watched as they retired sick and missed the cut.
The No. 1 spot has alternated between this trio in recent months, but for now there is one undisputed champion. His putt from 20 feet on the last summed up His Majesty before falling into the arms of his wife Meredith.
“Long day, tough day, but I’ve done a really good job of being patient and clearing things away as quickly as possible,” Scheffler said. “Having my family come here to watch, including my amazing grandmother, makes this so special.”
Norway’s Viktor Hovland, 68, and another American, Tom Hoge, 70, finished third with a tie, both with net winnings of £1.2million, while Justin Rose had one after his win at Pebble Beach last month enjoyed another fine week and scored a tie for himself seventh on eight-under. Rose’s double-bogey on the 17th proved costly, as did Aaron Rai’s seven on the same short blank.
There, the Englishman pulled off a hole-in-one in the third round, but Pete Dye’s arguably most evil creation took revenge with this quadruple bogey. Had Rai, the 28-year-old from Wolverhampton, saved par 3s he would have finished fifth with a tie and earned around £700,000. So he tied in 19th place and won around £200,000 – half a million difference.