Tyrrell Hatton sought Ryder Cup assurances before making LIV leap
Tyrrell Hatton walked up to a microphone at El Cameleon Golf Club, dressed head to toe in the black-and-pink apparel of his new team, Legion XIII, and confirmed one of the worst kept secrets in professional golf.
After 10 years on the DP World Tour and four on the PGA Tour, the three-time European Ryder Cupper had switched to LIV Golf to play on the same team as two-time major winner Jon Rahm.
“Yeah, it has that feel of like first day at school,” Hatton said. “Feels like I'm finding my feet a little bit. I’m excited.”
The 32-year-old Englishman, who won at Bay Hill in 2020 and finished second at the Players Championship last year, was one of LIV’s biggest signings over the offseason leading into its third campaign. His captain, Rahm, was the most high-profile, along with Poland’s Adrian Meronk and Lucas Herbert.
Hatton reportedly received a $60 million signing bonus. He had been in negotiations for more than a month, and it is believed the holdup was due to Ryder Cup eligibility concerns going forward. However, it was his Europe teammate, Rory McIlroy, who put his mind at ease.
When Rahm signed with LIV in December, McIlroy had said “the rules need to change” for the Ryder Cup to prevent the Spaniard from being banned from the biennial team event at Bethpage in 2025. Technically, neither Rahm, nor Hatton will be stopped from playing the Ryder Cup given they retained their DP World Tour membership. For the 2023 Ryder Cup, only players who were DP World Tour members in good standing were eligible to play for the European team, prohibiting most LIV players who had given up their DP World Tour memberships.
“The Ryder Cup is more than just being a part of the PGA Tour or LIV,” Bryson DeChambeau said in Mayakoba. “I think it's above and beyond that.”
Outside of the Ryder Cup, the question remains whether LIV golfers will be able to return to the PGA Tour if the U.S. circuit comes to an agreement with LIV’s financier, the Saudi Public Investment Fund, to join as an investor into the newly created PGA Tour Enterprises. The tour signed an agreement Wednesday with Strategic Sports Group as a minority parter, but said it was still negotiating with the PIF for a deal that would build off the framework agreement signed last June. If and when a deal between the PGA Tour and PIF is made, investment from the PIF will take time, however, and is subject to regulatory issues.
Still, it helped this week when McIlroy said at Pebble Beach that, that LIV golfers who “still have eligibility on this tour and want to come back … let them come back.”
“I've spoken to Rory a bit in the past week and back in December,” Hatton said of four-time major winner McIlroy. “That's kind of along the lines of what he said to me. It's not a surprise to hear him say that in the media. Ultimately, I would like to still be able to play events on the other two tours. But we'll see how all that works out.”
Added Rahm: “I think [McIlroy] might be seeing that the landscape of golf is changing and at some point you need to evolve. So I think he might be seeing that, and everybody is entitled to their opinion, but it's nice to have the support from a player the caliber of Rory, especially those Ryder Cup remarks he made early on. I think that's an important statement for change.”
Once fears were allayed, Rahm was able to ink the deal for his teammate at the 2018, 2021 and 2023 Ryder Cups to fill out a team called Legion XIII and former college star Caleb Surratt and Zimbabwe’s Kieran Vincent.
“Tyrrell is somebody I respect a lot. He's a really good friend of mine. We've shared the stage in some of the biggest events in the world and more recently in the Ryder Cup. Proud to say we're undefeated together,” Rahm said. “I think the two of us understand each other very well for some various obvious reasons we're probably not going to get into, but I see a lot of myself in him.”
Added fellow LIV recruit and former Ryder Cup Europe stalwart, Paul Casey: “What is he going to add [to LIV]? Some fire. He's a brilliant golfer. He has been for the longest time. One of the best putters I've ever seen, best green readers.”
What Rahm sees of himself in Hatton is a penchant for swearing after a poor shot. Only now, they won’t be fined given LIV does not hand them out for profanities.
“We have definitely been in trouble before,” Rahm said. “At least I have.”