TYRRELL Hatton is taking on the best golfers in the world this week in a last-gasp effort to win a place at The Open Championship, which tees off at Hoylake next Thursday.
The Marlow 22-year-old is playing in the Scottish Open in Aberdeen and needs to one of his best ever finishes to qualify for his third Open.
He needs to finish inside the top ten or as among the top three of non-qualified golfers, but he’ll have his work cut out in a field arguably as strong as any major.
Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els, Justin Rose and Rickie Fowler form part of a star-studded field that features 23 of the world’s top 60, while reigning Scottish and Open champion Phil Mickelson is back to defend both crowns.
Hatton though, has reason to be hopeful.
He made a blistering start to his first full season on the European Tour and after a slight slump he appears to be regaining his touch.
He finished inside the top 20 in the Lyoness Open and then finished 15 under par at the BMW International Open for a tie of 22nd.
There was also a hole in one during a practice round this week.
John Fay, Hatton’s manager at Georgia Golf, said: “Tyrrell is a very talented golfer and on his day he is capable. But he is playing against other golfers who are also very talented.
“There is a great field at the Scottish Open and it’s a great challenge for him. If he plays well he’s got a real chance – but he’s got to play well.”
Hatton has plenty of experience of Royal Aberdeen from his Walker Cup days, and is developing a habit of finding the right shots when he needs them.
He is playing his first season on the full European Tour after a blistering finish to last season’s Challenge Tour, while his previous two appearances at The Open both came after nerveless golf during the notoriously difficult qualifying rounds.
He was actually the youngest player in the field at St Andrews in 2010, when he qualified at his first attempt, and made it to Muirfield last summer after finishing minus six at Musselburgh Golf Club.
Fay said: “Any opportunity to play in majors is fantastic, but more important for his development is what he does on the European Tour and he had a fantastic start to his rookie year.
“He also played well at Wentworth and in Austria and Germany and he’s close to securing his card for next year with ten events left. He needs to finish inside the top 110 and is 65th at the moment.”
Meanwhile, High Wycombe’s Luke Donald is also playing in Aberdeen.
He has been grouped with Mickelson and Joost Luiten and fired a four under par round of 67 today, with two birdies on each nine and no dropped shots.
Hatton doesn’t tee off until 3.10pm today in the fourth from last group.