Tyrrell Hatton. Photo by Golffile
Tyrrell Hatton produced a dominant performance to win his fourth Rolex Series title and make the perfect start to the 2021 Race to Dubai at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
The Englishman went toe to toe with Rory McIlroy throughout the week at Abu Dhabi Golf Club but after a brilliant closing 66, he had left the four time Major Championship winner and the rest of the field trailing.
Hatton finished at 18 under, four shots clear of Australia's Jason Scrivener - who came home in a blistering 29 - and five ahead of McIlroy, with Spaniard Rafa Cabrera Bello at 12 under.
The victory sees him equal Jon Rahm's record of Rolex Series wins after previous victories at the 2017 Italian Open, 2019 Turkish Airlines Open and 2020 BMW PGA Championship and also makes him a six time winner on the European Tour.
Having made his Ryder Cup debut in 2018 and won his first event on the US PGA Tour last year, Hatton could now move into the top five on the Official World Golf Ranking as he further establishes himself as one the game's biggest stars.
The victory also moves him to the top of the fledgling Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex after finishing in the top ten in the season long standings in four of the last five years.
"It's surreal to be honest," he said. "Even knocking the putt in on 18 doesn't seem like I've won the tournament but it's amazing.
"I've always loved starting my season here in Abu Dhabi and to now add my name on that trophy with so many great champions before me is a huge honour.
"It's massive, Ryder Cup points have started again and that's a huge goal for me this year, to make that team, so I'm absolutely delighted that I've managed to pick up a load of points this week. I'll enjoy tonight but then my attention will turn to next week."
Rory McIlroy. Photo by Golffile
McIlroy and Hatton both made textbook two putt birdies on the par five second but the Northern Irishman extended his overnight advantage with a 20 foot putt on the next.
A three putt on the fourth trimmed the gap to one and, after making excellent up-and-downs on the third and fifth, Hatton put his tee shot - which he admitted he had blocked in an on course interview - to six feet on the par three seventh to join the lead.
McIlroy then failed to recover from a poor tee shot on the eighth, finding sand short of the green with his third and struggling out of the bunker to drop a shot and leave Hatton at the top of the leaderboard.
A 27 footer on the ninth moved the World Number Nine to 15 under and after making gains on two of the toughest holes on the course, he led by two at the turn.
Hatton maintained his momentum with a 34 foot putt over the ridge for a birdie at the tenth and while McIlroy had a good look at eagle, he needed two putts and the gap stayed at two.
McIlroy took the brave line off the 11th tee but failed to clear the bunkers, finding more sand with his second and dropping a shot to extend Hatton's lead to three.
The leader was now clearly brimming with confidence and an excellent approach from the rough to five feet at the 13th meant he led by four with five holes to play.
McIlroy dropped another shot on the 16th and found himself replaced in second by the fast finishing Scrivener.
Tyrrell Hatton. Photo by Golffile
After turning in 37 with two birdies and three bogeys, he eagled the tenth and then made gains on the 12th, 14th, 15th, 16th and last to sign for a 66 and cut the lead to three.
But Hatton holed an 18 foot putt on the 16th to re-establish his cushion and cruised to a commanding victory.
Cabrera Bello took advantage of all four of the par fives and added a birdie from 12 feet at the third in a 69 that also contained bogeys on the 11th and 15th.
American David Lipsky and Scot Marc Warren signed for a pair of 71s to finish at 11 under, a shot clear of English trio Tommy Fleetwood, Chris Paisley and Matt Wallace, and Paraguay's Fabrizio Zanotti.