ST. ANDREWS, Scotland—It was all going so well for Tyrrell Hatton. Nine holes into the final round of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship over the Old Course at St. Andrews, the 26-year-old Englishman was four under par for the day and five shots clear of the field. A third successive victory in the event looked to be his for the completing.
But it wasn’t to be. While Hatton’s nearest challengers, Lucas Bjerregaard and Tommy Fleetwood were playing the back nine in 34 and 35, respectively, the long-time leader was stumbling home in the cold and blustery conditions in 40 shots. Which was one too many, both for Fleetwood and Hatton. The English pair ended up tied on 14 under par, one stroke more than Bjerregaard, who pocketed €695,759 for what was his second European Tour victory.
Just about the only disappointing aspect of the new champion’s day was not being able to hole-out for the win on golf’s most famous final green. A shot-gun start had been employed in what was a successful effort to beat ever-rising winds, and Bjerregaard had begun his round on the 18th tee. Still, he was at least able to stroll casually up the final fairway knowing he had won. Not a bad consolation prize and the culmination of a fine run of form that has seen him record seven top-six finishes since April.
This was also another in a lengthening line of triumphs for Denmark. Never mind Thomas Bjorn’s winning captaincy in the Ryder Cup and Thorbjorn Olesen’s stunning display in the singles at Le Golf National; Denmark currently holds the World Cup of Golf and the World Amateur Team Championship.
“This was a great day and one of the best rounds I’ve played all year,” Bjerregaard said. “I’ve played well recently and come close a few times. I’ve never been to a Ryder Cup before, but Thomas invited me down, so I went. I saw the team room and the locker room, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t inspired. It was amazing to see. I definitely want to make that team one day.”
Not surprisingly, the two runners-up displayed contrasting emotions at close of play. Where Fleetwood was philosophical in defeat, Hatton was predictably more emotional. Both had chances to tie on their final green. Fleetwood missed from no more than seven feet; Hatton from maybe twice that distance, his ball touching the edge of the cup before failing to drop.
“This was the perfect week for me after what was a very big week at the Ryder Cup,” said Fleetwood, who closed with a 69. “I’ve enjoyed all of it. Just missing out is a little bit raw at the moment, but it was nice to be back in the mix again. I haven’t been right there with a chance to win for a while. My form has not been bad, but I just haven’t put four rounds together. The putt on the last would leave been nice to make but in contention I did all the right things.”
That wasn’t a claim Hatton could make, of course. The four bogeys that scarred his card over the closing holes the obvious symptoms of a man running rapidly out of steam.
“My momentum completely went after my tee-shot on 10,” he said. “For some reason I just couldn’t seem to do anything right after that. My putt on the last summed it up really. A massive gust of wind knocked me off. I’m disappointed. It would have been pretty special to have three in a row. But it wasn’t meant to be.”
As for the small American contingent who made the trip to Scotland from France, Brooks Koepka fared best. A final-round 72 saw the U.S. Open and PGA champion pull up in a tie for seventh place on nine under par. Tony Finau was T-10 on eight under, and Matt Kuchar’s five under was good enough for T-28.
Koepka was not best pleased with his finish, however. Asked to comment on his round and week, Koepka responded with stony silence before making off in a buggy towards the warmth of the Old Course Hotel. Bogeys on each of the last two holes clearly left him far from chuffed at the end of a tournament in which he had partnered with his caddie, Rickie Elliot, in the pro-am section and played alongside his brother, Chase, in each of the first three rounds. There’s just no pleasing some people.