Poor Tyrrell Hatton. Normally, he’d have been the target for autograph hunters after equalling the Old Course record with a 10-under-par 62. Not when you’re playing in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, though, and your amateur playing partner is a Hollywood actor.
The likes of Michael Douglas and Samuel L Jackson used to be the crowd pullers but not any more. It’s Jamie Dornan, the Irishman of Fifty Shades of Grey fame, who had those autograph hunters lined up close to the 18th green, where the vast majority were probably oblivious of Hatton having seized the lead in the £4 million event with a stunning effort.
“Probably 99 per cent of them haven’t got a clue who I am,” said the 24-year-old, smiling, after finishing birdie-birdie to claim a share of the course record along with Victor Dubuisson, George Coetzee and Paul Casey – the three others to have signed for 62 since changes, notably a new tee at the 17th, were made to the Old Course for the 2010 Open Championship.
Flying under the radar, so to speak, seems to be working well for Hatton. On 17-under-par, the Buckinghamshire man takes a three-shot lead into today’s final round at St Andrews. He’s chasing a first European Tour triumph, but it’s just about overdue. This season alone, he finished runner-up in the Scottish Open, fifth in the Open Championship and 10th in the US PGA Championship. It’s easy to see how he’s sitting ninth in the Race to Dubai.
“It’s completely different to what we are used to playing,” said Hatton of the pro-am format that has been in existence in this event since 2001. “Playing with Jamie Dornan has meant big crowds and it’s good fun. Obviously I’d like to get a win and I’ll be trying my best tomorrow. It’s been a really consistent year and it would be nice to have a good finish.”
Hatton’s putter had been hot on the greens at Carnoustie on Thursday, when he required just 25 putts, but cold as that rose to 35 at Kingsbarns on Friday. It was hot again as a string of putts dropped on the giant Old Course greens, the pick of them being a 25-footer for a rare birdie at the 17th.
“This is clearly the best round I’ve ever had,” he confessed. “I’ve never actually got to double digits under par before, so I’m very pleased with that. This is a course that has not generally been too kind to me, having first played it as an amateur in the Links Trophy then in the 2010 Open. It’s fair to say I’ve struggled, but hopefully we can have another good day tomorrow.”
Hatton’s closest challenger is fellow Englishman Ross Fisher, who is trying to go one better in this event after losing out to Robert Karlsson in a play-off eight years ago, with South African Richard Sterne and Swede Joakim Lagergren a shot further back in joint-third.
Having slipped 12 shots off the lead after last week’s Ryder Cup effort finally seemed to catch up with him, Belgian Thomas Pieters is no longer a threat, but Martin Kaymer certainly is. After a 65 at St Andrews, the 2010 winner is just five behind Hatton and he’s built up a nice head of steam since opening with a 71 at Carnoustie.
In contrast to the stiff breeze there on both Thursday and Friday, conditions were benign as Fisher, who led after two rounds, signed for a 69 to stay in the mix. “We were all hoping for Car-nicey and not Car-nasty – and got it,” said the five-time European Tour winner. “It was a beautiful day to play this place. What a golf course in this condition.”
Having backed up a 66 at St Andrews with an equally good 67 at Carnoustie, Marc Warren is sitting seventh, six shots off the lead, as he chases the big cheque that can secure his European Tour card for another season. The 34-year-old came into this event sitting 125th in the Race to Dubai, but has shown over the past two days in particular how he should really be challenging for big titles like this rather than fighting for his future.
A bright future could lie ahead for another Scot. Making his professional debut, Grant Forrest comfortably made the cut thanks to a six-under-par 66 at St Andrews. “I’m no longer unemployed,” joked the 23-year-old from North Berwick after securing his first pay-day.