Tyrrell Hatton keeps winning over US Open fans not only with brilliant play but amusing explosions

PINEHURST, N.C. (AP) — Tyrell Hatton had every reason to explode after the fiery Englishman caught a bad break on the back nine at Pinehurst No. 2.

He was near the top of the U.S. Open leaderboard Friday and had just rammed his drive down the middle of the fairway, leaving him a short iron into an elevated green. He hit it so perfectly that the ball descended into the back of the cup, leaving quite a bit of damage in its wake, only to spin out of it, off the green and into a deep bunker.

Hatton proceeded to march to the green, stood over the hole as officials repaired it and ... laughed.

“I hit a really good second shot in,” he said later, almost shrugging. “Obviously too good.”

Hatton ended up making bogey from that bunker. He had a couple of other tough breaks along the way, but managed to control his emotions — and his swing, which kept pulling the ball left from the middle of the fairway — and followed his opening 68 with a 1-over 71 on Friday that left him 1 under for the championship and very much in contention.

“It is so hard, and generally par isn't a bad score,” Hatton said, repeating an oft-said-but-accurate U.S. Open trope. “It's I guess accepting sometimes that if you have hit a good shot and you get a bad break, it kind of — although it stings, just trying to move on from that. I'd say I've done better at that the last two days than maybe I have done so far this year.”

Indeed, Hatton has a well-earned reputation for speaking his mind, and acting on whatever happens to be rattling around in it.

That sometimes produces an impressive array of f-bombs, too, often directed at himself. Such was the case during the LIV Golf event in Miami, when a ball that he thought should have been safe instead bounded into the trees.

Hatton's animus extends far and wide, though, and even to fellow members of the Saudi-backed circuit. At the Masters in April, he ripped a group ahead of him that included LIV member Patrick Reed for its laborious pace of play.

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

“Sometimes,” Hatton said, “people find it amusing. Other times, it's maybe not amusing, and as I said, that's probably more of the times when I think to myself, ‘Yeah, I shouldn’t have said that.’”

Yet it is exactly those outbursts that have endeared Hatton to so many fans. Every player at every level can relate to the angst he experiences on the course, whether it be other professionals or the Sunday hacker who snaps his putter over his knee on the first hole and spends the rest of his day putting with a wedge.

The only thing that may be holding Hatton back from becoming a truly big star may be visibility. He was among those who chased guaranteed money to LIV, where the crowds are smaller and the TV ratings meager. And while that may have enriched his bank account, it has kept a whole lot of casual fans from following his escapades.

“I feel like I essentially go under the radar a bit,” Hatton said, “which I'm more than happy with.”

When he does pop on the radar, it is usually entertaining.

During his round Thursday, on the long par-3 17th, Hatton struck his shot and immediately dropped his club, thinking he had caught it on the toe. Then, the ardent Liverpool FC fan tried to give it a free kick off the tee box.

His ball wound up clearing the greenside bunker and stopped as close to the hole as anyone had come all day. He made birdie.

Then on Friday, not long after his unfortunate break at the 13th, Hatton hit his approach at the 15th to 8 feet. But he badly misread the putt, walked off the green and began having a chat with himself — a quite demonstrative one, only interrupting his mutterings when he would throw his head back in agony.

“Sort of internally screaming,” he said, “for the most part.”

Something to which a lot of players can relate.

“Some guys can bottle it up. I’m always pretty good at just showing you how I feel. I’m not afraid to just get it out of my system,” said Hatton, who has finished in the top 10 at every major championship but never truly contended on a Sunday.

“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.”

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