ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) - Tyrrell Hatton grabbed the consciousness of the wider golfing public with his top-10 finishes at the British Open and U.S. PGA Championship last year.
He is proving the hot summer was no fluke.
Hatton, a 25-year-old from England, followed up his impressive performances in the majors by winning his first senior title at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and finishing second at the season-ending World Tour Championship in Dubai.
Now, at a career-high ranking of No. 23, he is closing in on an ever bigger result.
Hatton rolled in an 8-foot birdie on the 18th hole for a 4-under-par 68 and the outright lead after three rounds of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on Saturday.
A host of big names - including major champions in Dustin Johnson, Martin Kaymer and Henrik Stenson - are within three shots in the European Tour’s strongest field of the year, so Sunday’s final round will be a big test of Hatton’s resolve.
Especially since this is his first competitive event in nearly two months.
“I didn’t do a whole lot of work,” Hatton said of his offseason. “I spent most of my time playing Xbox and chilling out at home to be perfectly honest, so (it’s) a little bit of a surprise to see where I’m at this week.”
He hasn’t lost his edge on the golf course during his hours playing video games including “Call of Duty” and FIFA.
Hatton outplayed one major champion - Stenson, the British Open winner - in his group on Saturday. He’ll have to see off another on Sunday when he will play alongside Johnson, the long-hitting U.S. Open champion who is over his jet lag and shot an 8-under 64 to move into contention.
“I’m sure I’ll be hitting it first, that’s for sure,” said Hatton, who believes he is a different player now he has ended his title drought on the European Tour, especially since it happened at the so-called home of golf at St. Andrews.
“It gives me a lot of confidence. It’s nice to get my first win at such a special place.”
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