ORLANDO, Fla. — There were a number of times when it seemed like Tyrrell Hatton was about to throw away the Arnold Palmer Invitational during Sunday’s final round at Bay Hill.
None seemed more certain than on the 11th hole, where he took a two-shot lead to the tee.
Hatton, the 28-year-old Englishman who’s prone to emotions detrimental to his performance on the golf course, walked off the 11th green after taking a double bogey that evaporated his lead, stopped, turned around and gave the hole the figurative middle finger with his body language.
“I was just having a little moan — like it’s the grass’s fault and the wind’s fault, it’s never my fault,’’ Hatton said with a grin. “I said on [Saturday] the hardest thing for me will be to manage myself. And, over the course of this week I feel like I did a decent job of that. After the double on 11, which was pretty tough to take, I feel like I could easily have blown up after that. [But] I managed to kind of keep my head a little bit, although I did get a bit frustrated.’’
This is when Hatton’s caddie (and unofficial psychologist) Mick Donaghy sprang to action. He told Hatton to regain his focus, move on and take a few practice swings to kind of get some good feelings again.
“I stood on the 12th tee and that was probably one of the best tee shots that I hit,’’ Hatton said.
On a tense day that featured treacherous conditions with blustery wind and rock-hard greens, when only 10 of the 69 players in the field broke par, and when tournament favorite Rory McIlroy, the No. 1-ranked player in the world, stumbled to a 76, Hatton steeled himself.
Surprised himself, too.
After the double on No. 11, he calmly parred the final seven holes and never relinquished the lead, staving off Aussie Marc Leishman by one shot — 4-under to 3-under — for his first PGA Tour victory.
“I said to Matty [Kelly, his caddie] we were walking down 16, ‘Of all the courses on the PGA Tour, this is the last one you’d pick if you had a two-shot lead with three to go,’ ’’ Leishman, the 2017 Arnold Palmer winner, said. “Tyrrell never gave it up. He did what he needed to do there at the end.’’
In the end, Hatton answered all of the questions on the test.
That’s why he was awarded the traditional red cardigan sweater in honor of Palmer, the tournament’s namesake, the big silver trophy, a three-year exemption on the PGA Tour and a lot of money.
“It was really tough out there and obviously I was getting frustrated at times, but nowhere near the blowups that I am capable of,’’ Hatton said. “I’m just happy that I’ve managed myself well enough this week to be sitting here. I’m very thankful to sit next to this trophy.’’