Standing on the par-4 eleventh tee with a three-stroke lead in the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, Tyrrell Hatton pulled out driver.
“Don’t you just love Tyrrell,” gushed the voice of on-course commentator turned crocodile hunter, Wayne Riley, lauding the club selection.
Twenty seconds later, Hatton’s tee ball met a watery grave.
“That was the right play,” Radar insisted, Akubra intact.
Now playing his third, together with experienced caddie, Mick Donaghy, the pair considered the wind, pulling five-iron for a 193-yard approach.
Then, the wind died, the ball flew and Hatton was left with a lot to do – caught in no man’s land behind the green.
‘What a time for the wind to die down, eh,’ he remarked to Riley as he passed the Australian traipsing through the bushland on his way to assess his latest plight.
Left with no choice but to play through the unpredictable rough to have any chance of accessing the pin, Hatton’s ball only ambled as far as the fringe grass as Tyrrell swiped the turf with his spikes, simmering.
With Im –‘who? Yeah, Im’ – making birdie up ahead at the par-5 twelfth, suddenly Hatton’s three-shot advantage was about to be reduced to one, at best, should he navigate the treacherous slope from the fringe and make an unlikely ‘5’.
“I didn’t trust my line,” he confessed, hoiking his putter left at the last second as his ball careered off-path before laying to rest six feet from the pin in five.
Three thuds audibly followed as the irate Englishman casually, yet aggressively, lashed his own back with his misbehaving short stick: branding PING in bright pink between his shoulder blades.
What happened next would prove crucial to the outcome of the tournament.
“You’re left with a really smelly putt,” Hatton described.
The double-bogey attempt brought back memories of Padraig Harrington’s brave up-and-down on 18 at Carnoustie after two trips to the Barry Burn; a putt that ultimately earned him a playoff and a first Major title over Sergio Garcia at the 2007 Open.
Hatton’s cojones were about to be similarly tested. In the heat of battle, they duly passed. However, his outright lead had vanished.
Now I’m no Dr. Bob Rotella but no more than Hatton’s six foot save was crucial to his score, I believe that his walk from the eleventh green to the next tee-box proved just as important to the outcome.
Hatton, understandably livid, took aim at the lake, resting mockingly unmoved, as he gripped his putter like a rifle. The spectators at Bay Hill watched on, captivated, like village people outside a dusty saloon door as the wounded Englishman, who had dropped to his knees hurt after coming off second best in the initial duel, somehow summoned the strength to fire shots from the ground at his unknowing target.
The wound wasn’t fatal after all.
To add insult to injury, Hatton flipped off the man-made obstacle that he’d undoubtedly tripped over en route to the 12th tee but with the frustration out of his system, he found the fairway on 12 and parred home for a one-shot win.
“I was just having a little moan,” Hatton accepted of his antics on 11 post-round. “It’s the grass’s fault and the wind’s fault. It’s never my fault!”
“I give myself a hard time and that’s one thing that I should probably get better at.”
But that’s where I’d disagree. It might look and sound unsavoury at times but Hatton’s fire is one of his greatest strengths. I don’t think he’d be the same force without it.