It was all over for Tyrrell Hatton when his third shot came to rest off the green at the first replaying of the par-five 18th hole at the Turkish Airlines Open on Sunday.
Or so it seemed. Hatton conjured a birdie with an extraordinary chip to keep himself in a record-equalling six-man play-off, which he would go on to win – under floodlights – at the fourth extra hole.
I felt sorry for Matthias Schwab. The Austrian had led from the first round, was Hatton’s last opponent standing in the play-off and simply couldn’t buy a putt on the last day.
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But all credit must got to Hatton, who claimed his fourth European Tour title and his second from the prestigious and lucrative Rolex Series very well in the end.
This is a huge victory for the Englishman, not least in financial terms: the difference between Hatton and Schwab’s pay cheques was almost €1.5m.
But it is also significant in the Race To Dubai, lifting Hatton to sixth place; the Ryder Cup, virtually guaranteeing his spot on the European team for next year’s clash with the USA; and world rankings, his return to the top 30 ensuring his invite to the Masters.
Heart on his sleeve
The 28-year-old is a great competitor who wears his heart on his sleeve, and that’s a huge part of his psyche.
If he drops a shot he tends to make amends immediately with a birdie – he did this twice on Sunday and four times over the whole week – so while he can take misses to heart, he tends to forget them quickly too.
I remember being super impressed with the way Hatton handled some tough holes down the stretch when winning the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship for the first time in 2016.
Becoming a winner of multiple Rolex Series events has now put him in the same bracket as Jon Rahm and Justin Rose, and he is definitely on the heels of players like them.
His next rung on the ladder would be a WGC title and, after that, a Major. But it wouldn’t surprise me if Hatton skipped a step and landed one of golf’s biggest prizes – he’s certainly very capable.
The four other men who made it to the play-off and contributed to an amazing day of drama also deserve a mention.
South African Erik van Rooyen, seeking his second European Tour win of the season, pulled off an eagle at the last to join the top of the leaderboard.
American Kurt Kitayama, who has two wins already in his rookie season in Europe, looked sure to make it three a few times and looked very good when under the cosh.
I really liked how aggressive Victor Perez was, with six birdies in his closing 10 holes to card a 65, while his fellow Frenchman Benjamin Hebert also did well to make the play-off with a birdie at 18.
And just two shots behind was Robert MacIntyre, who continued his fine debut campaign on the European Tour.
The 23-year-old from Oban, who last month became Scotland’s highest ranked player, now has six top-10 finishes in 2019 and is pushing Kitayama for the tour’s Rookie of the Year award.
Format needs a rethink
It is difficult to come up with an ideal format for a six-man play-off – the joint biggest in European Tour history – especially when light is fading as it was in Turkey on Sunday.
But I wasn’t a fan of using two three-balls to decide the tournament.
In a play-off you really need to see what your opponents are doing as it has a direct impact on the shots you play.
Dividing players into two groups doesn’t allow for that and it’s something that I think it would be worth the tour looking at.
Main image credit: Getty