Perfect day for golf in Scotland.
Chilly air and blustery winds — about 20-25 miles per hour.
Perfect day on the perfect course — The Old Course at St. Andrews, the home of golf, world’s oldest course, world’s coolest course, world’s most historic and hallowed course.
Tyrrell Hatton looked like he’d make it a hat-trick, or a Hatton-trick Sunday at the Dunhill Links Championship.
With the fear of winds growing to perhaps 40 miles per hour late in the afternoon, the tournament officials did the unusual — started the field with an 8:30 a.m. shotgun start.
Hatton, the 54-hole leader, started off No. 1. He’d make four straight birdies starting at the third, getting him to an eye-popping 18-under par. And here’s where it was supposed to get even better for Hatton, he was approaching the Loop holes.
There’s an old saying in Scotland — “Ye can nay play St. Andrews unless ye can cane the Loop!” Cane The Loop means to play the “Loop” holes under par. The loop is the turnaround from the outward nine — the ninth, 10th, 11th and 12th holes form the famous “Loop.”
The Loop was Hatton’s undoing. Bogeys at the 10th and 11th were fatal. Most professionals will go two or three-under par for the Loop holes. Even your faithful Dogleg servant played the Loop one-over a year ago during the Royal Dogleg Society of Trans-Atlantic Golfers’ visit to The Old Course. But we digress.
Hatton was a nervous 16-under with all sorts of trouble still to be navigated — the Principal’s Nose, the Spectacles, the Beardies and of course, The Hell Bunker at 16 along with the infamous Road Hole — the 17th.
The volatile Hatton was showing signs of his famous temper, he’d already given back two shots and up ahead Lucas Bjerregaard was making a Danish Run. The long-hitting Dane teed off on 18 to start his day, drove it well enough to make easy birdie then added four more by the time he birdied the 13th to get to 15-under par.
The wind kept whipping and Bjerregaard and another name contender — Tommy Fleetwood — needed more help from Hatton and they’d get it.
Fleetwood, one of the darlings of the European Ryder Cup team, was plodding his way through the typical Scottish conditions and a birdie at the 15th got him to 14-under and he still had the downwind, reachable par four 18th up ahead if he could negotiate 16 then the Road Hole.
Hatton gave Bjerregaard and Fleetwood the help they’d need. He missed a five-foot par putt at the 15th and looked ready to explode. Then after a perfect drive into the strong wind at 16, he mis-hit his second and it ballooned high into the wind, plopping 30 yards short of the putting surface. Another bogey, he fell back to 14-under. He also lost the lead thanks to Bjerregaard’s 20-foot birdie putt at 16. Bjerregaard was 16-under.
The Dane then returned the favor to everyone with a common, every-day occurrence at The Old Course — bogey at the Road Hole, his final hole. He was finished, done at 15-under.
Fleetwood was 14-under through the Road Hole then lashed his drive just short of the green at 18 in the shadow of the Royal and Ancient clubhouse. Tommy’s putt left him 10-feet short and he’d miss, something he didn’t do most of Ryder Cup week. He was done, a shot shy of the lead.
Hatton managed to keep his wits about him, he drove well at the 18th but left himself in front of the Valley of Sin. The deep hollow on the left side of the 18th green. His putt left him 12 feet short and he’d miss.
Instant joy for Denmark.
Bjerregaard cut Hatton by five shots with a nifty 67 when the Old Course was at its chilly, windy best. Only Haotong Li, the Chinese star managed a better effort — 66.
Hatton and Fleetwood will look back and think of what might have been.
Hatton was done in by the easiest part of The Old Course.
He simply couldn’t Cane The Loop.