Under normal circumstances, Tyrrell Hatton’s mum Karen would have travelled down from Aviemore this weekend to watch her son try to win another title in Scotland, just as she did when he won the Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews in 2016 and again, last year.
Unkind fate, however, has decreed she will be watching at home. Five weeks ago, she underwent a successful operation to remove a tumour from a lung, and is not fit to travel.
It might be a touch corny to say Tyrrell wants to win for his mum, therefore, but it also happens to be true. ‘It sure would be nice, wouldn’t it?’ said the 26 year old. ‘I know she will be watching on television. Luckily, they caught it pretty early and the surgery went to plan. Hopefully, watching me doing well will help her recovery.’
Under normal circumstances, Tyrrell Hatton’s mum Karen would be at the Scottish Open
To win, he will have to hit the ball better than he did on Friday, mind, where he rather surprised himself with a second round 64 in the Scottish Open to lie just two shots behind the pacemaker, fellow Englishman Robert Rock, at halfway, and one shot ahead of American Rickie Fowler, who won this title here in 2015.
‘There were some shots out there where I struck the ball so badly I think I missed the grooves in my irons,’ said Hatton, wryly. ‘I was quite surprised the ball went forward. I just putted so well.’
There was an amusing moment when Sky analyst Tim Barter, a respected coach in his own right, asked Hatton whether he would be seeking a solution to his poor ball striking by spending the afternoon working on his game.
That must have produced a few guffaws in the players’ lounge, where Hatton’s ability to compete at the highest level while practising the least of any top player draws plenty of banter. ‘No, me and the driving range are not friends,’ replied Hatton, smiling broadly.
It’s certainly not laziness. The one time he tried to find a solution on the range was this time last year, which led to a horrific sequence of missed cuts.
Like Colin Montgomerie before him, he’s just one of those players who benefits from forgetting all about the game when he leaves the links, and not thinking about it again until he returns the following day.
Five weeks ago, she underwent successful operation to remove tumour and is not fit to travel
Hatton has taken great confidence from a top six finish at the US Open last month, which was a vast improvement on last year, when he missed the halfway cut in all four majors. ‘That was one of the goals for the season, to start to do well in the majors, and I think that performance will stand me in good stead for Carnoustie and The Open next week,’ he said.
Carnoustie, of course, is one of the venues on the Dunhill rota, so no wonder he’s looking forward to another event in Angus. ‘Scotland’s been very good to me the last couple of years, so let’s hope it continues,’ he said.
Rock, by way of total contrast, is a driving range nut, whether it be overseeing the one he owns in the Midlands, or teaching a couple of players on tour, or practising his own game.
His swing is so good, it’s no wonder his peers have tapped into his considerable acumen. Now 41, there’s a lot at stake as he goes in search of not only his first win since defeating Tiger Woods to win in Abu Dhabi in 2012 but also a spot in the field at The Open next week.
Hatton surprised himself with second round 64 in Scottish Open to lie just two shots off lead
Rock has former tour player Sam Walker on his bag as caddie, and the partnership is certainly paying dividends. ‘I’ve known Sam since he was 15 and he’s proving a big help,’ said Rock. ‘He’s a great putter, and so I’m able to trust him completely when he’s reading the greens for me.’
Fowler had a glorious chance to draw closer to the lead but missed two highly presentable birdie chances over the closing three holes.
Not that the ever-laconic Californian was too fussed.
‘I’m exactly where I want to be heading into the weekend and really pleased that we came over here early to get ready for next week,’ he said. ‘The purpose of coming over, though, was to win the Scottish Open again but it’s going to be tough with so many guys playing well and such a crowded leaderboard.’
Fellow Englishman Robert Rock leads at halfway stage with Rickie Fowler one shot off Hatton
Playing alongside him, Justin Rose showed his mettle after a poor front nine by playing the inward half in just 31 strokes – the best of the week to date. How typical of Rose to thrive over the toughest part of the course. His play over this stretch underlined why the world No 3 will start among the favourites at Carnoustie, arguably the toughest course on The Open rota.
An exciting weekend is in prospect with Ian Poulter and the Masters champion Patrick Reed also in touch with the leaders – but Phil Mickelson will head to Carnoustie early after becoming the biggest name to miss the halfway cut.
At 48, it was always asking a lot to go from playing at the Greenbrier in West Virginia on Sunday, to 18 holes in Paris on Monday to a round at Carnoustie on Tuesday to teeing it up here.
Twenty-four hours after the abject apology for his abysmal behaviour at the US Open came what can only be described as a sorry 36 holes.