April 4, 2024

Tyrrell Hatton says working out whether to move to the LIV Golf League was so difficult he wished he could have had someone else make the decision for him.


The 32-year-old Englishman, who has been a mainstay of the past three European Ryder Cup teams, followed team-mate Jon Rahm to the Saudi Arabia-funded breakaway circuit last February.


Hatton plays the Masters next week knowing that his performances in this year’s majors will be vital to his long-term chances of continuing to play the four biggest tournaments in the men’s calendar.


The Buckinghamshire star agreed his reported £50m move after agonising over the decision during January’s Dubai Desert Classic.


It was only at the last moment he opted to fly to Mexico for LIV’s 2024 opening tournament rather than that week’s PGA Tour stop at Pebble Beach.


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“This all came about over the weekend of Dubai,” Hatton told BBC Sport. “The following week was a pretty stressful one. I almost wanted a crystal ball to know what the right decision would be.


“I spoke to so many people in that week, almost to the point of wanting to have someone to make the decision for me. It was hard. You don’t know what’s the right decision.


“I knew that if I stayed and played PGA Tour, if I play how I have been for the past seven, eight years then I should stay within the top 50 and give myself the best chance of making the Ryder Cup and playing in all the majors and that’s what I want to do.”


Hatton says the lure of becoming part of Masters champion Rahm’s newly formed Legion XIII team was pivotal to his decision. They had forged a successful partnership in Italy at last September’s Ryder Cup victory, winning both of their foursomes matches.


“We obviously get on very well and we had a good record in Rome,” said Hatton. “So, there were certain things with LIV that I really liked. But, as I say, it was going into the unknown and not sure if it would be the right thing.


“But so far I’m happy and ultimately that’s the most important thing.”


And he claims that money was not the prime motive behind his move. “Everyone knows that side of it,” Hatton said. “Yeah, it’s nice but ultimately it’s not everything.


“I like that idea of being part of a team, I like the schedule and not in the sense of playing less. That’s not my goal whatsoever. I like the fact that we’re going to different places around the world.”


But he also knows there is plenty of jeopardy involved in making the move to a circuit where he has finished in shares of eighth, 12th, 15th and 21st in his four appearances to date.


“It’s taking that risk but its something I was excited by and ultimately decided that was the route I was going to go down,” Hatton added.


With the PGA Tour re-engaged in talks with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, he admits his conclusion to move could have been even harder to make.


“I think the talk of golf hopefully coming together made the decision marginally easier, but it was still a really difficult decision for me to make,” he said.


The atmosphere is less hostile between the rival tours than it was when Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia departed at the start of LIV’s first season in 2022. “It’s definitely softened,” Hatton said.


“Some of the lads described themselves as looking like Swiss cheese with all the holes that they’d had taken out of them for the abuse that they received.


“Unfortunately social media isn’t the nicest of places. I actually deleted my social media because I knew that there was going to be negativity.


“I just didn’t want any of that judgement and negativity in front of me. So I deleted that and it’s been quite nice actually.”


Hatton says the biggest drawback to playing LIV’s 54-hole shotgun starts is the fact that rounds can start at any part of the course.


“My routine I’ve always been walking onto the tee two or three minutes before we’re due to go and you keep that rhythm from the range,” he said. “Sometimes you have to leave 20 minutes before the shotgun start.”


But the biggest downside is undoubtedly the loss of a regular source of world ranking points, the currency he requires to maintain major status. This year he is eligible for the full set; the Masters, US PGA, US Open and Open Championship.


“It’s hard,” he admitted. “I have to earn 20-25 world ranking points this year to be in all four majors next year. That’s the equivalent of finishing fifth on your own in a major.


“It’s doable and it would be nice if I could have a really good week next week at the Masters – although that’s been challenging for me over my previous seven visits.”


A winner of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth and the Alfred Dunhill Links at St Andrews, Hatton still wants to play European Tour events. Moving to LIV makes that more difficult unless fines and suspensions are lifted as punishments for tour members who compete in its events.


“While I understand it makes it a little bit more difficult there’s still kind of a pathway to play DP World Tour events unlike the PGA Tour where we’ve been suspended,” Hatton said.


He is also keen to retain his place in Europe’s Ryder Cup team and has spoken to captain Luke Donald to remind him of this ambition.


But that is a long-term goal. More immediately he plays this week’s LIV event here at Donald Trump’s Doral resort near Miami. And then it is the Masters next week where 2018’s share of 18th place is his only top 20.


This year’s quest for a Green Jacket, given the decision he agonised over earlier this year, would seem to carry more pressure than ever before but while it sounds like a deflection tactic, he is trying to play down such significance.


“The majors on paper are going to have more emphasis than there has been in previous years,” he said. “But I’m not really looking at it like that. There’s no reason why I can’t go and have a great week.”

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