Mercurial Tyrrell Hatton keeps cool under US Open heat

PINEHURST, N.C. — There was a moment in Friday’s U.S. Open second round when you expected Mount Hatton to erupt on Pinehurst No. 2.

Tyrrell Hatton had just sent his approach shot on a laser at the flag on the par-4 13th hole. The ball dented the grass on the edge of the cup and spun back off the hump-back green and into a bunker.

Hatton, one of the most colorful (dare we say volatile) players in golf, was inches from making an eagle 2 on the hole and instead walked away with a bogey 5.

Tyrrell Hatton, who stands at 1-under par, takes a drink before teeing off on the second hole during the third round of the U.S. Open. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

And — hear this — he didn’t throw or snap a club, unleash an expletive-laced verbal assault at himself or even yell at his caddie.

Instead, Hatton quietly carried on to the next hole and continued to play his round.

This was as much an upset as world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler nearly missing the cut on Friday.

Hatton finished his first 36 holes in 1-under par, entering Saturday’s third round very much in contention. “I guess 1-over in a U.S. Open isn’t the end of the world,’’ he reasoned afterward.

He began Saturday’s third round on a tear, with a birdie on No. 2 and an eagle on No. 5, and suddenly he was 4-under par and one shot out of the lead.

The day didn’t end the way he wanted it to, though. Hatton gave a few back and finished with an even-par 70 to stay at 1-under. He will begin Sunday’s final round six shots behind leader Bryson DeChambeau.

It was the way Hatton handled the roller coaster that is the U.S. Open that was eye-opening and makes you think he’s closer to winning one of these things.

Tyrrell Hatton hits a tee shot on the second hole during the third round of the U.S. Open. Katie Goodale-USA TODAY Sports

“It wasn’t my day on the greens,’’ Hatton said after his round Saturday. “I’m sort of sad about that because as it stands, [six] shots back going into tomorrow. … I know anything can happen, especially around this golf course.

“Hopefully, I can wake up with the same golf swing I had today, because I’m really happy how I’ve ended up hitting the golf ball. It’s a tall ask. Stranger things have happened.’’

Like Hatton’s new-found composure in the heat of battle.

“I think how I handled the whole day mentally, when I did hit a few poor shots, at different times I might have sort of lost my head more, struggled coming in,’’ he said. “I sort of feel like I held my own and was in a good head space, played good golf.’’

Tyrrell Hatton looks up as his putter in frustration after missing a putt on the 18th hole during the third round of the U.S. Open. AP

Hatton, a humorous type, has come to this U.S. Open with a fascinating psychological strategy, one he believes might work to his advantage.

“Maybe everyone else getting a bit more frustrated is better suited for someone like me that is just constantly frustrated,’’ Hatton joked earlier in the week. “In some ways with [the U.S. open] being harder, a lot of guys sort of losing their head and it sort of brings them to my level, because I just lose my head every week.

“They can kind of experience what it’s like in my head for a week.’’

That sounds like a Disney thrill ride.

Hatton reasoned that “some guys can bottle up’’ their frustrations, though, “I’m always pretty good at just showing you how I feel. I’m not afraid to just get it out of my system. Although this week, I’m trying not to sort of blow up too much because I’m trying to give myself a little bit of grace on occasions.’’

The way Hatton describes his famous temper, it sounds as if he almost blacks out during his on-course rants.

“Half the stuff I say on the golf course, I don’t even know where it comes from,’’ he said. “There are some times where I sort of [think], “Oh, I probably shouldn’t have said that’ or cringe a little bit. But it’s just a reaction. It’s not like I’m thinking, ‘I’ve hit a bad shot, I’m going to let it rip.’ It just comes out.

“I don’t know where from. But sometimes people find it amusing. Other times it’s maybe not amusing.’’

Hatton’s sometimes volatile on-course demeanor sometimes takes attention away from how good he’s been. He’s ranked No. 20 in the world, has played in three Ryder Cups and contented in major championships, having finished in the top-10 in all four of them, and won the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

“I feel like I’ve proved to myself that I can compete with the best players in the world,’’ he said. “I know if I play the kind of golf I’m capable of, then I’ll give myself a chance. The biggest thing for me is trying to stay out of my own way, not getting too frustrated and trying to accept certain shots and not let it boil over to the next one.’’

Easier said than done.

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