Englishman Tyrell Hatton went through periods of indecision on whether or not to go back home across the Atlantic as golf went into a ‘pause’ mode on account of the Covid-19. He stayed on in US when the lockdown happened and things were getting bad in the UK, and then when it started getting bad in the US, he did think of going home.
But a little later the PGA Tour announced a ‘re-worked’ schedule and there were ‘quarantine’ regulations on arrival in UK, Hatton decided to stay on at his temporary residence at Nona in Orlando.
Back in March, Hatton had just won his maiden PGA Tour title and started the PLAYERS with a first round 69 that ended with a double bogey. Then came thee stoppage, that last three months and more.
Hatton did not play at Fort Worth but came to Harbour Town for RBC Heritage. Three rounds and 54 holes later, he is in a position to win back-to-back title on the PGA Tour, but with 13 weeks in between.
A superb 63 in the third followed rounds of 71-64, as he shared the lead with Webb Simpson, Abraham Ancer and Ryan Palmer, at 15-under. It is a packed leaderboard with 21 players within three shots of the leader, and 35 at 10-under or better. Hatton’s round was one of the six rounds of 63 on the third day.
Hatton had five birdies on front nine and three more on the back nine for a bogey-free 63, which tied his career-low round of 8-under 63 – he shot 8-under 63 at 2018 Dell Technologies Championship, too.
He has been putting well, needing only 75 through 54 holes and leads the field in Strokes Gained in putting. His four previous starts this season include three top-10s, highlighted by a win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Hatton has been bogey-free since his bogey on 11thon the first day, which means he has been flawless for 43 holes.
Asked what he did during the lockdown, Hatton said, “We stayed in Orlando. We rented a house in Lake Nona. So we spent the 13 weeks just hanging around there. It was a nice spot to be.”
Did he think of going back to UK at any point? “Me and Emily, my fiancée, we talked about it. It was all depending on how long we’re going to be off from playing tournaments. We kind of said that, although when we went into a bit of a lockdown here, it was really bad in the UK, and we felt like, when it got worse in the States, then we might look at going home.
“But when the schedule came out and with the quarantine rules back in the UK and coming back out to the States, it just didn’t make much sense to try and go home.”
He also said the chance to practice at Nona, was a factor. “And also practice-wise, they kept the tees open at Nona, so if you wanted to practice, you could. Back in the UK, you couldn’t leave the house. No golf courses were open. So I wouldn’t have been able to practice anywhere — although I still didn’t actually practice a whole lot whilst I was at Nona. It was going to be more beneficial to stay.”
Rory McIlroy has already said that the European players should have been in the US ahead of the schedule and even spent time in isolation, if they were keen “on their career”.
Does Hatton feel bad for some of his European colleagues, who have a tough decision on whether or not to come to the US? Especially now that they would be faced with the prospect of coming to the US and the quarantine.
Hatton said, “Yeah, of course, it’s a tough decision. When you’ve got families, et cetera, at home, it makes it more difficult to leave. At the end of the day, the guys have got to do what they feel is right for them. Everyone’s got to make their own decisions. I think whatever you choose to do, everyone’s got to respect that.”
As for his thoughts on the packed leaderboard, he added, “It wouldn’t be surprising if someone around 20th place goes out and shoots potentially a really low score to win the tournament. If the weather’s the same, which I haven’t seen the forecast, I think it will probably be another low scoring day. I’m sure it will be exciting to watch back home on the TV.”
He is not surprised that many players are showing no rust, and said, “No. I think we’ve all had enough notice to try and get ready to play tournaments again. So it’s not massively surprising to see guys playing as well as they are.”