10 November 2019: The Turkish Airlines Open turned into a theatrical work this evening with six golfers, one man after another, making clutch putts to set up a playoff that will not be forgotten in a hurry. For starters, this was the first time since the Alfred Dunhill Links in 2003, that we saw six men indulge in a battle for silver at the end of the 72nd hole. With not many of them in a mood to yield space, the Montgomerie Maxx Royal Course had to be lit up with floodlights to ensure the completion of this thrilling playoff late into the evening. In the end, Tyrrell Hatton only needed a par on the fourth playoff hole to nudge Matthias Schwab for the title and a healthy $2mn cheque.
Schwab has been at the top of the leaderboard, mostly alone for the better part of two days, until Kurt Kitayama surged along side him with a sensational final round 64. As we had already reported earlier, Shubhankar Sharma also produced a brilliant 64 today to finish in T7 with Robert MacIntyre at 18-under 270.
Kitayama was the first to reach the clubhouse at 20-under, the mark that five others would tie in a mad scramble towards the end of the week. Erik van Rooyen, Victor Perez, Benjamin Hebert, Hatton and Schwab would all finish at 20-under to set up a crowded playoff.
The European Tour decided to spread the wealth into two groups, a move that has attracted all round criticism from the golf world. In any event, van Rooyen, Perez and Hebert fell out soon enough. Then it was the turn of Kitayama to tumble out of the compounded circle of playoff warriors.
That left the floor to Schwab and Hatton, playing under the lights to discover the winner. The Austrian hadn’t made anything worse than par on any of the par-5 holes including the 18th this week. But on the 24th occasion, which the number of times he was playing a par-5 this week, when he reached the tee for the fourth playoff cycle on the 18th, Schwab left himself a tricky six footer for par to extend the playoff.
“It was a close call,” said a rueful Schwab. “I had some good looks and good chances coming down the stretch in regular play and didn’t take advantage of them. In the playoff, it is what it is.”
Schwab’s ball was on a line, parallel to the shadow of the flag. He left his par putt marginally low, perhaps befuddled by the line to take, to concede victory to his tenacious opponent.
“I actually can’t believe that I’ve won,” said Hatton. “It’s been quite a difficult year in terms of things happening off course and the last month I feel like I really found my game again.
“I said to a few people on my team that if I was lucky enough to win again then I would definitely savour the moment. I think it’s quite easy to take it for granted and sport’s great when it’s going well but when it’s not going well, it kind of hits home, so I’m absolutely thrilled.
“I can’t wait to get that Masters invite through the post again. It’s a special feeling and just a bonus that comes with doing well.”
Hatton started his day three off the pace, but under glorious sunshine, he played with enormous belief and a steely calm. He sank a mighty putt on the 18th to make birdie and force his way into a share of the lead.
In the playoff, Hatton produced another memorable chip-in to stay alive, before claiming a fourth European Tour victory when Schwab missed his par-putt at the fourth playoff hole.