An enthralling spectacle under floodlights is a sporting pleasure typically denied to golf fans, until Sunday’s final round of the Turkish Airlines Open where Tyrrell Hatton triumphed in a six-man play-off staged in remarkable circumstances.
Matthias Schwab’s missed par putt from close range handed the £1.56 million winning cheque to the Englishman on the fourth extra hole, after Hatton kept himself in the contest with a chip-in birdie on their first attempt at the par-five 18th.
Hatton, Schwab, Victor Perez, Erik Van Rooyen, Benjamin Hebert and Kurt Kitayama all finished on 20-under par in regulation play – equalling the European Tour’s record size of play-off – and the stalemate meant the Montgomerie Maxx Royal’s floodlights were required to complete play as darkness fell in Antalya.
“It’s hard to put into words,” Hatton said. “It’s just been a crazy day. Obviously the playoff was mental, and I’m just so happy to win again.”
The players were split into two threeballs and sent to the 18th tee for the sudden death play-off. Perez, Van Rooyen and Hebert were the first to fall away after failing to match the birdie fours made by Hatton, Schwab and Kitayama.
Hatton’s birdie came via a holed chip shot after running his pitched third back across the green as his prospects of a first victory since October 2017 appeared to be slipping away. It was precisely the kind of crisis that has previously caused Hatton to emotionally combust, but he retained his composure and responded with steely resolve.
“I went back to when I was a kid at Harleyford just chipping away, and you’d hole three in a row,” Hatton said. “That really focused me, and it came out perfect.”
Kitayama missed a presentable putt to win the tournament on the second extra hole after Hatton and Schwab also saw chances run by the edge of the hole, before Schwab drained a 20-footer from the fringe to equal Hatton’s birdie on the third extra hole which Kitayama could only par.
A missed three-footer on the fourth extra hole was a particularly sour conclusion to Schwab’s week, who missed a birdie putt to win the tournament in normal time having lead from the front with a poise that suggests a maiden Tour title is not far away.
Victory in the first of the three Final Series events in the Race to Dubai is a timely boost for Hatton, who has endured a difficult season due to a cold putter and persistent injury problems.
Hatton slipped and collided with a metal bar at the 2017 Masters, and will undergo surgery at the end of the season to alleviate wrist pain that has troubled him ever since.
Hatton reflected after lifting the trophy: “I said to a few people on my team that if I was lucky enough to win again, then I would definitely savour the moment, because I think it’s quite easy to take it for granted, and you know, sport’s great when it’s going well, but when it’s not going well, it kind of hits home, so I’m absolutely thrilled.”
An invitation to next year’s Masters now awaits after Hatton moved comfortably inside the top 50 in the world rankings as well rocketing up 30 places to sixth in the Race to Dubai.
The season-long contest now concludes with this week’s Nedbank Challenge in Sun City, South Africa before the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
The make-up of the top five in the standings remains unchanged after Bernd Wiesberger and Shane Lowry endured quiet weeks in Turkey and Jon Rahm, Matt Fitzpatrick and Rory McIlroy elected to skip the event. Only the top 50 players in the rankings make it to Dubai, where the winner of the tournament will take home £2.3 million.
Lee Westwood, who finished in a tie for 10th in Turkey, defends his Nebank Challenge title where Fitzpatrick is also committed to playing.