Tyrrell Hatton: No issue over Saudi if players support Rolex Series events

Tyrrell Hatton reckons there should be “no issue” over top European players teeing up in tournaments like the Saudi International in February as long as they support Rolex Series events.

Tyrrell Hatton celebrates his fourth Rolex Series victory after winning the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship at Abu Dhabi Golf Club in January. Picture: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images.

The Englishman was among a group of players listed earlier this week as being confirmed for the $5 million Saudi event, which will be staged on the Asian Tour in 2022 after being held for its first three years on the European Tour.

It was reported last week that the European Tour and PGA Tour would be telling members that they wouldn’t be getting permission to tee up at Royal Greens Golf Club in King Abdullah Economic City, near Jeddah, and anyone ignoring that advice would face stern sanctions.

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Whether or not that is the case remains to be seen and Rory McIlroy, chairman of the PGA Tour’s Player Advisory Council, said earlier this week that he believed players should be afforded releases for such events on the basis of them being “independent contractors”.

Viktor Hovland talks through a shot with his caddie during the first round of the Hero World Challenge at Albany Golf Course in the Bahamas. Picture: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images.

Also speaking in the Bahamas, where they are playing in the Hero World Challenge hosted by Tiger Woods, four-time Rolex Series winner Hatton explained to The Scotsman why he’s intending to play in Saudi along with the likes of Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickelson.

“I guess so,” he replied to being asked if he regarded himself as an independent contractor. “I think as long as you support the tour in the right events like the Rolex Series ones, which I certainly feel like I have done, I don’t really see what the issue is.”

Had he sought a release yet? “I think it’s too early,” added the 30-year-old. “I can see stuff happening in the new year. I think we will get more of an idea then. I played there (in Saudi) this year, finishing in a tie for sixth. I had a good week out there.”

While not among the confirmed players for the Saudi International, another European Ryder Cup player, Viktor Hovland, echoed Hatton’s view as he also spoke about golf’s hot topic at Albany Golf Club in the Bahamas.

“There are a lot of great tournaments out there that many of us can contest, but, at the end of the day, I just want to see where I stack up against the best players in the world,” said the 24-year-old Norwegian, who has already won three times on the PGA Tour and once on the European Tour.

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“So, when you see that there are already a lot of good players committed to go play in Saudi and that makes it attractive for players who want to test themselves against the best players in the world and for that reason, I don’t see why we should be stopped from wishing to play in Saudi.

“It boils down to the fact you have to make your own decisions and where certain events fit in your own schedule and, at the end of the day, we just want to play golf. I guess I’m an independent contractor, but then I don’t get into the nitty gritty with the definitions of everything.”

After both playing in this year’s Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits, Hatton and Hovland are now waiting to find out who will be handed the task of leading Europe into battle in the 2023 match in Italy.

Lee Westwood has ruled himself out due to the fact he’s still in the world’s top 50 and isn’t ready to commit the time necessary to do the job properly, with Swede Henrik Stenson and Englishman Luke Donald now reckoned to be the main contenders.

“No, not really,” said Hatton of Westwood’s decision, having been widely tipped to succeed Padraig Harrington. “He’s sitting 38th in the world rankings and he’s still a fantastic player and he wants to focus on his golf.

“He’s got many years ahead for when he wants to slow down a little bit and he could be the Ryder Cup captain then. And, if you are going to be Ryder Cup captain, you want to be able to put your heart and soul into it. You want to be more focused on that than your own golf.

“I think where Lee is in the world rankings and the golf he’s playing, I don’t think it should be a surprise that he wants to keep focusing on that at the moment. There are a handful of other guys who can do it, but at the same time, you have to want to do it and, if your heart and soul isn’t in it, things might get missed.”

Hovland, who made his debut against the Americans in September, said he doesn’t know who will be at the helm in Rome. “I am a little far removed from knowing who will be the next European captain,” said the world No 9.

“I am not too sure about the guys out there who would be seeking the captaincy, but I do know there are a lot of guys out there who will be future captains.”

Having played in the last two encounters, Hatton is determined to make it three in a row in Italy, no matter who the captain is. “Absolutely,” said the two-time Alfred Dunhill Links champion. “It was a very different experience at Whistling Straits and it was disappointing to be on the losing side there.

“But Paris (where he was on a winning side in 2018) is still one of the most amazing experiences that I’ve had in my life. Even the fun we had in the team room at Whistling Straits meant it was a special place to be. You want to be on those teams every two years and hopefully I will be in Rome.”

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