We sat down with Tyrrell Hatton to talk Masters memories, Augusta excitement and the holes he’s already thinking about ahead of his first trip down Magnolia Lane.
TG began our interview with Hatton by suggesting we’d like to kick off with some questions “about a tournament in April”. The event isn’t named, but Hatton’s grin stretches across his face as he giggles: “Which one’s that then?”
The Englishman is the world No.15, a player in as impressive an ascendency as almost anyone else in the world after a stellar 2016 that saw him jump from outside the world’s top 100 to the cusp of the top 20. So many Tour pros would be super cool (or at least act it) about their Masters debut, but he’s as excited as you or I would be about the chance to play at Augusta in April.
The affable 25-year-old from Marlow once won a mini Green Jacket for winning a kid’s competition at the local Par-3 course, where he started playing at the age of three. Now, he has a chance to compete for the real thing.
When you knew you were definitely in, what were your first thoughts?
Just real excitement. I’ve always watched it on TV so to now have the invite and to know I am playing is incredible. It’ll be pretty special.
Was it a spine-tingling moment to see the invitation on your doormat? The invitation came through and it was obvious what it was so my girlfriend Emily took pictures of me opening it with a big grin on my face. It was the best bit of post I’ve ever had.
Has your rankings rise surprised you?
Not sure if it’s surprised me. Obviously you grow up as an amateur watching guys who are in the top 20 in the world and look at how good they are. Possibly it has crept up on me a little bit because I probably don’t see myself as anything special; I don’t think I am.
What are your clearest Masters memories?
The first thing that comes to my mind is the ridiculous chip that Tiger Woods made, left of 16. I can still watch that back now and get goosebumps with the brilliant commentary and the dramatic way it toppled in. That is my abiding memory of it, even though I would have been very little [aged 14] watching it.
Come Thursday evening of Masters week, would you be in front of the TV from minute one?
Yes! I’ve always watched every minute. I’d be ready for when the coverage started at 8.30pm, or whatever it was, straight through to when it finished. I’d watch it on Sunday and be shattered for school the next day.
So will it be a case of trying to stop yourself being overawed by Augusta?
You have to try to treat it like any other tournament, but that will be difficult because you probably can’t help but get really excited when you get there. I am going to go for a few practice rounds beforehand – probably the week before Bay Hill – so when I arrive for the tournament it doesn’t feel too new and I am not overawed. I’m going to try my best to stay on the level, but also enjoy it. That’s the main thing – to enjoy the first one, play well and get a good finish. It is a very special achievement to make it to the Masters.
Who is going to be there with you?
We’ve booked all the accommodation for my family and my girlfriend’s family as well, so it’ll be special for everyone.
They are all as excited as me I think. Luckily for me I have quite a few things to keep myself busy in tournaments before then and time will go quickly. It might go a bit slower for them. Emily’s dad plays golf and her mum is just getting into golf, my dad is my coach so obviously loves it, my mum used to play when I was younger. So the only person who is going who doesn’t play is my sister. She couldn’t miss it.
It’s going to be amazing for your dad...
Totally. Dad has coached me since I was 11 and it has worked out well.
Will you play in the Par 3 and who will caddie for you?
Dad is going to caddie for me and I’m going to try to get him to hit the shot on the 9th. I might start taking bets soon on whether he is going to fat it in the water at the front or thin it through the back! It should be good fun.
When did you start to think Augusta was a realistic dream? When I got close to the top 50 in the world. That’s when it became a realistic target. I knew during the Dunhill Links [October 2016] that if I won, that would probably very likely secure my trip to the Masters. So I had that a little bit in the back of my mind. It didn’t affect me or my game, it was just something that excited me... and thankfully that weekend worked out well.
Is getting to Augusta something that is talked about by other guys on Tour?
Funny you should ask that because that’s exactly what Thomas [Pieters] said to me in the locker room in Abu Dhabi: “It’s great to have this nailed down already.” We talked about how cool it was to get the invitation through and about how excited we were. Anyone that gets their first one through is excited, so yes, it is one of the things we talk about on tour.
What would represent a good result?
I’m not going to make any real goals for that particular week. All I can do is try my best and hopefully it’ll work out.
Do you take inspiration from Danny Willett last year, showing a young Englishman can win there?
It was great to watch him win and great for English golf. Hopefully there will be another English winner this year.
How different does a Major week feel even compared to a big regular tournament?
A Major week feels a bit bigger all round. There is a certain buzz around it and more spectators and more atmosphere. Majors are special weeks and I’m looking forward to playing in all four this year.
Does your game feel suited to the supposed requirements of Augusta?
My natural shot is a fade, not the draw that is supposedly better there, but my short game is pretty good and we all know it has to be on point so I’ll be working on that even more before I go.
Which hole are you looking forward to playing the most?
Probably the 12th. In fact all of Amen Corner. That will be special. Everyone says it will be difficult with how the wind swirls, so I’m looking forward to seeing how it actually works out.
Any holes you think will be especially tricky for you?
I try not to think of those things!
Will you ask any friends on tour who have played there about places to miss?
Probably not. I’ll try to treat it like any other week and play my practice rounds as usual. I might try to pair with guys who have played there a lot, but we’ll see come the week itself.