With my colleague, Sam Horscraft, having recently kicked-off our blog posts, now it’s my turn to spout about sport.
Unfortunately, for those of you who read his offering, I will not be writing about Crystal Palace striker, and one of my favourite players of all time, Christian Benteke, whose injury and pure bad luck (not work-rate and the shooting accuracy of Shane Long) have put pay to that.
Watch this space, though, as I assure you that I’ll knock up a morale-boosting article on the Big Belgian when he’s banging in a header against Shrewsbury Town (how good are they doing) and demanding a transfer back to the top-flight on the opening day of the 2018/19 Championship season.
I’ve decided to take the focus away from the football field and, like Carlos Tevez did in the 2011/12 season, have shifted my attentions to the golf course as we’re now under a year away (28-30 September, 2018) until one of the greatest team competition in sport, the Ryder Cup.
Taking place at the stunning Le Golf National, Paris (just the second time the competition has been hosted in Continental Europe), it will be the 42nd time two teams compete for the Samuel Ryder Trophy and the 20th occasion USA have taken on Europe (the United States destroyed Great Britain 19-3 in the previous 22).
But with just 12 spots on each side, elite golfers from Europe and America will have their eyes firmly set on qualifying for next year’s showpiece now every shot and tournament counts toward the Ryder Cup Rankings.
With just the top-eight (the final four are captain Thomas Bjørn’s picks) granted automatic qualification to a European team looking to win back the trophy after defeat in 2016, competition is fiercer than Mel B dressed as a Honey Badger.
One man who’s snatched his opportunity to steal a march on the rest of the field is Tyrrell Hatton, who Bjørn says he expects to be in his team when it’s finalised on September 9.
Hardly a Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose or Lee Westwood when it comes to household names in European golf, why is the skipper so positive the High Wycombe swinger will make his Ryder Cup bow next season?
Thomas Bjørn, Team Europe Ryder Cup Captain.
Hatton turned pro in 2011 but, like many on the European Tour, progressed to a stage where he was easily keeping his card with the occasional top-10. Sadly, this fine start to Hatton’s career was not enough to see him receive the kind of recognition current Wycombe striker Adebayo Akinfenwa enjoys in the golfer’s hometown.
But since the start of 2016, Hatton has threatened to be noticed, finishing in the top-10 on six occasions (including runner-up at the Scottish Open) before, most vitally, getting that first career win under his belt at St Andrews’ Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in October of that year.
Another three top-10s in the final five tournaments followed as the right-hander secured a fourth-placed finish in the Race To Dubai season rankings, 31 places higher than he’d achieved the previous year and enough to earn him a spot at the four majors for the first time.
Hatton carried his consistency and progression into early 2017 but, after carding +14 in the first two rounds of his debut Masters in April, things started to go downhill as he missed the cut in six of his next eight tournaments.
After collecting a very much-unwanted full house of failing to reach the third day of any major at the US PGA Championship, Hatton did not even look like the steady but unexceptional 2015 version of himself, never mind a potential Ryder Cup star.
But like all the players who go on to achieve great things, the Buckinghamshire lad bounced back from his struggles and adversity to finish T3 in the European Masters and T8 at the British Masters. Once again, people were starting to talk of Tyrrell Hatton.
Now how could he handle the pressure of being one to watch? This year’s Alfred Dunhill Championship was to put that to the test. As defending champion, Hatton was in the limelight all week at St Andrews.
Many wilt under that kind of scrutiny, just happy to get through the week and for the circus to leave town. But Hatton, putting into practice lessons learned from his major disappointments, came out fighting like his (sur)namesake used to and became the first man to defend the title at the legendary Old Course. If only his beloved Liverpool FC could defend as well!
If that wasn’t impressive enough, the Ryder Cup hopeful was picking up the third trophy of his career a week later as he, like the previous week, saw off Ross Fisher to win the Italian Open, his third professional title which saw him rise to fifth in this season’s Race to Dubai Rankings.
Hatton’s aggressive style of play is great for match play golf, boding well for the Ryder Cup, but his temperament, something questioned as recently as the British Masters will have to be controlled if he is to succeed in Team Europe as it is a characteristic Team USA would eat alive in the heat of battle.
The key for Hatton now is not to repeat this summer’s blip again next year, but this year’s experience of touring as a major golfer for the first time seem to have shown him what he needs to do over the next 10 months to be one of Bjorn’s boys.
Whether he’ll make it or not, we’ll just have to wait and see. It’s just a shame they don’t play the sport’s most famous competition at the world’s most famous golf club. If the Ryder Cup were at St Andrews, Hatton’s winning record means he would’ve been a force to be reckoned with.
Find out more about Tyrrell Hatton…