Tyrrell Hatton outduels Rory McIlroy to win Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship
Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship was supposed to be Rory McIlroy’s time to exorcise a demon. If the weight of a 54-hole lead weren’t enough, McIlroy stood in line to win his first tournament in more than 14 months. With a weaker-than-usual field and only a handful of big names lurking near the lead, it seemed the stars were once again aligning for Sir Rors.
Until, of course, they didn’t.
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McIlroy, for his part, did not put forth a final round performance worthy of claiming his first victory since November 2019. While Hatton poured in six birdies throughout his bogey-free Sunday, McIlroy managed just even-par 72 for the day.
“Started well,” McIlroy said after his round. “Started great with two birdies in the first three. And then I felt like there was a few putts I hit today, the wind affected the putts more than maybe the last couple days.”
According to The 15th Club’s Justin Ray, McIlroy has now finished in the top-5 in his first start of the year in 13 of the last 14 years, but has never won.
“I don’t feel like I played great this week,” McIlroy said. “Felt like I was managing my game a bit. Nice to get a competitive week under my belt and see where my game is and what I need to do to keep on improving.”
Meanwhile, the 29-year-old Hatton was busy at work building a sizable lead through the front nine. With plenty of cushion down the back nine, he closed out the victory in a surprisingly casual fashion.
“It’s surreal to be honest,” Tyrrell Hatton said after his round. “Even knocking the putt in on 18 doesn’t seem like I’ve won the tournament but it’s amazing.”
Hatton might not have been the favorite entering Sunday behind McIlroy, but perhaps he should have been. He’s been one of the best players in the world in the time since Rory’s last win — grabbing four of his seven career wins between the PGA and European Tours.
“Starting the day one back behind Rory, always know it’s going to be a tough day – if Rory plays as good as he can, he’s basically the best in the world,” Hatton said. “It was always going to be really tough to get past him.”
With the win, Hatton earns not only a sizable winner’s check, but a bevy of early points towards earning a spot on the European Ryder Cup team.
“It’s massive, Ryder Cup points have started again and that’s a huge goal for me this year, to make that team, so I’m absolutely delighted that I’ve managed to pick up a load of points this week,” Hatton said. “I’ll enjoy tonight but then my attention will turn to next week.”