Sun, 16 May 2021

England's Tyrrell Hatton defends his title this week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where victory launched a roller-coaster year that included two wins in the past five months.

Sixth-ranked Hatton tees off Thursday at Bay Hill in Orlando, where he captured the final trophy before the Covid-19 pandemic shut down the season for three months.

"The world has changed quite a bit in the last year since my win here, but, obviously, it's still fond memories and it's always going to be a special place for me," Hatton said Wednesday.

"It was a world-class field and it does a lot for the confidence. I'm sure it played a huge part in, once we restarted golf again, how I finished off the year."

After the layoff, Hatton captured last October's BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth and kept the momentum rolling through a January victory at Abu Dhabi for his sixth career European Tour triumph.

"Although we did have, unfortunately, a long break not long after the tournament last year, I kept that run going and ended up having a brilliant year," Hatton said.

"Winning for the first time on the PGA Tour at such an iconic venue is extremely special. It was a huge moment for me in my career."

Hatton knows what it's like to win back-to-back titles, doing so at the 2016 and 2017 Dunhill Links tournaments for his first European Tour triumphs.

"It was very special to defend the Dunhill and I'll be trying my best to do that this week here at Bay Hill," Hatton said.

"I feel confident when I go to a tournament. If I know that my swing's in a good place and I manage my emotions well throughout the week then I'll give myself a chance."

'Surreal' to top field

Hatton said it was "surreal" to be the top-ranked player in this year's field, but added, "it doesn't really play any relevance in how the tournament's going to go."

Hatton, 29, hopes to build momentum for next month's Masters, the only major tournament where he hasn't managed a top-10 finish.

"I need to figure out how to putt at Augusta, if that is ever going to be happen," he said. "Normally putting is a strong point for me and I've never putted well there, sadly. Hoping that changes this year. But there's a lot of golf to be played between now and then."

Hatton has made an impression on three-time major winner Jordan Spieth.

"Every part of his game is solid. He's obviously able to win just about anywhere in the world and he has proven that," Spieth said.

"He's one of those guys that possesses that inner confidence and competitiveness... when things are on, he's going to continue to ride that momentum."

Up to 5 000 spectators a day will be allowed at Bay Hill, giving Hatton some perspective on going from no golf to no fans to a limited few.

"We all know how lucky we are to be working and I guess having almost a normal life being able to play tournaments," he said. "We're very happy to be playing again. We've got 25% capacity fans this week as well, so that's going to make a nice change.

"Bit of atmosphere again is always welcome and it'll be done in safe manner, which is the important thing. Hopefully I can do something worth cheering about."

Source: News24

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