Thank you for showing up after that weekend on the gridiron.
What is a modern test of golf?
The DP World Tour’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship made more than one headline this weekend. For starters, Thomas Pieters held on to win the biggest title of his career. Pieters has struggled since his breakthrough performance at the 2016 Ryder Cup, but in his past nine starts he has won twice and placed in the top 20 seven times. Another headline would have to go to the biblical conditions on Friday, which sent second-round scores through the roof.
But the main talking point out of Abu Dhabi ended up coming courtesy of Tyrrell Hatton. Hatton, who finished three shots back of Pieters, played the 18th hole at Yas Links four over par on the week. Afterwards, he let reporters know what he thought of the hole’s design. “It must be one of the worst par fives that I’ve ever seen in my life,” Hatton said. His complaints centered on the length of the hole (646 yards from the tips) and the bunker in the driving area.
We’re not calling the 18th at Yas Links our favorite par 5 on the planet, but insofar as it’s a genuine three-shotter for the world’s best golfers, it’s something of a rarity. Its length forces pros to hit two great shots for a chance at an easy birdie look, and the centerline bunker forces them to commit to a strategy off the tee. Tyrrell Hatton had no great reason to be so worked up.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe, the PGA Tour was serving up the opposite kind of golf at the American Express. Hudson Swafford fired a final-round 64 to take the title at -23. He was one of 10 players to get to -17 or better in spite of this week’s occasionally blustery conditions. Clearly frustrated by the weak pro-am setup, world No. 1 Jon Rahm was heard on a fan’s video saying, “What a piece of s**t f***ing setup…. [It’s] a putting-contest week.”
Rahm’s and Hatton’s comments show how hard it is to present a professional tournament venue these days. If it’s too soft, Jon Rahm is coming for you; if it’s too challenging, Tyrrell Hatton is popping off in the press tent. For our money, we’re brushing off Hatton’s gripes and giving the pros an opportunity to show their skill, intelligence, and ability not to throw a fit.
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