Tyrrell Hatton a Ryder Cup dream, says his skipper Padraig Harrington

Harrington also predicts a return to winning ways for Rory McIlroy, who finished third in Abu Dhabi and is without a victory in 15 months

Powered by automated translation

Padraig Harrington has described Tyrrell Hatton as a “Ryder Cup captain’s dream” after his victory in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, while the Irishman is confident Rory McIlroy will reel off a number of wins once he tastes tournament success again.

Hatton prevailed by four shots at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, keeping at bay the likes of McIlroy and two-time winner Tommy Fleetwood down the closing stretch. His 66 was the final round's joint-best score. McIlroy had begun the day out in front, with a one-shot lead over Hatton.

The win was Hatton’s fourth in 15 months – three of those have been Rolex Series events - and moved him to a career-high fifth in the world rankings.

That bodes well for Harrington, who leads Team Europe into the defence of their Ryder Cup trophy against the United States at Whistling Straits in September. The biennial event was postponed last year because of the pandemic.

Speaking on the eve of his return to playing the Omega Dubai Desert Classic for the first time since 2001, Harrington said of Hatton: “He’s everything you'd want in a player for sure.

“Obviously plenty of good golfers out there, but Tyrrell does seem to have it when he comes under pressure on the big occasions with big players staring him down, like he was going against Rory and Tommy Fleetwood last week.

"He's a Ryder Cup Captain's dream, isn't he? That's exactly what you want, a player that has that gumption and can really get it done.”

Hatton made his Ryder Cup debut last time out, in 2018, and contributed a point as Europe went on to reclaim the crown in France by 17.5-10.5.

The 29-year-old has 10 professional wins to date, including one in America. Last March, he saw off a stellar field to triumph by a shot at the Arnold Palmer International.

“Even though he's won four times over the last year, they have been nicely spread out and it not flash-in-the-pan stuff,” Harrington said. “He keeps delivering.

“Very impressive with his win in Bay Hill last year, I thought down the stretch, and again he proved it last week. Rory took an early lead, and it would have been easy for Tyrrell to play nicely and finish second or third.

"But he took that tournament by the scruff of the neck, and from a captain's point of view it was very impressive. That's the sort of stuff I'd like to see all my players doing.”

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - JANUARY 24: Tyrrell Hatton of England and Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland bump fists on the 18th green during Day 4 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship at Abu Dhabi Golf Club on January 24, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Tyrrell Hatton and Rory McIlroy bump fists on the 18th green during at the end of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. Getty

McIlroy eventually finished third in Abu Dhabi, five shots back, to extend his winless streak to 15 months. The Northern Irishman, a four-time major winner, shot an even-par 72 on Sunday. He has slipped to world No 7.

“Wouldn't we all like to play as bad as Rory McIlroy?” Harrington joked. “That's just how it is. He's there every week. You look on and just wish you could have weeks like him because you know plenty of wins are going to come.

“This is a better period of not winning; the best period Rory has ever had of not winning is this at the moment. He's there or thereabouts all the time. If you looked at this three, four, five years ago, he could have been missing a few cuts on this run. Now he's just contending.

“Right, he's not getting it across the line at the very end, but when he does, he'll go on a run and maybe he comfortably could have a run of winning six, seven, eight times in a year.”

This time last year, McIlroy was in the middle of a spell that in February propelled him back to world No 1 for the first time since September 2015. However, he has two top fives in his past 14 events, albeit those came in his two most recent outings.

“From a Ryder Cup point of view, a little bit selfish, I'm kind of happy to see it,” Harrington said. “He was playing unbelievable at the start of last year and I said it at that stage, I'd just like to rein him in a little bit and hold him back. We don't want him burning himself out. We want him fresh and ready to go come September.

“So I'm actually very pleased with where he's at. Rory is at his best when he's trying to prove a point or two. Obviously there's a bit of pressure on him, and there's a bit of media speculation, let's say, and Rory is always at his best like that. So bring it on. He's in great form and just keep pushing him, and the best comes out of him.”