Tyrrell Hatton’s bid to join the playoff earlier this month at the WGC-Mexico Championship was derailed by a spike mark on the final green, but the Englishman was reportedly flustered by an explanation from a rules official a few holes earlier.
Hatton is in the field this week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he tied for fourth last year. But in a recent podcast with Sky Sports, he detailed a situation from the final round at Chapultepec Golf Club where he was joined by Phil Mickelson and Shubankhar Sharma in Sunday’s final group.
According to Hatton, the group had received a warning about slow play earlier in the round and were again approached after Hatton had birdied the 14th hole to draw even with Mickelson.
“So Sharma had been, he wasn’t that slow, to be honest. But I feel like Phil was taking quite a lot of time on certain things,” Hatton said. “You’ve got four holes left to play, it’s sort of crunch time. And we’ve all hit good tee shots up 15, and one of the officials drives over and says, ‘Phil you’re exempt, but Tyrrell and Sharma I’m going to start timing you.’
“And Phil goes, ‘Oh, he obviously likes me.’ And I was like, I was raging,” Hatton said. “Danny, my player manager, was walking with me, and I walked over to him as I got near the ball and said, ‘Can you believe what this referee’s just done? He’s said that me and Sharma are on the clock.’ I said to him, in the circumstances, that’s a disgrace.”
A PGA Tour rules official told GolfChannel.com that the situation outlined by Hatton is within the rules, whereby once a group receives a formal warning the individuals in the group can then be “observed” individually to determine if further action is required.
“If we’ve been observing the group, we’re not going to punish players who are doing their part to keep up, but we’re going to time the ones that aren’t,” the official said.
The section of the PGA Tour rule book pertaining to slow play reads: “Once a group has been warned, the Rules Committee (if available to do so) will monitor the pace of individual players in the group to determine if any players should be timed individually, as opposed to the entire group, in the case the group does not regain its position on the course.”
Hatton eagled the 15th hole in the immediate wake of the warning, but he admitted to being unnerved by the presence of the official with stopwatch in hand near the 16th green when he raced a birdie putt more than 10 feet past. He ended up one shot out of a playoff, where Mickelson beat Justin Thomas for his first win in nearly five years.
“It was quite frustrating for me,” Hatton said. “Obviously I’ve grown up watching golf, and Phil’s been around a helluva long time, and I’m trying my best to beat him. But I just found that slightly off-putting and it was sort of, when I came away from the tournament, it’s frustrating that that actually happened.”