Tyrrell Hatton hit his second shot on the 12th at Yas Links, and the ball had barely reached its apex when he knew the sin he had committed.
“Ahhhh, back off it,” he scolded himself.
Hatton, who can make a putting green blush when running hot, then let the perpetrator know his feelings.
“F***ing gusts! F**k you!”
Two weeks ago, Cameron Smith won the PGA Tour’s Tournament of Champions with a whopping 34-under total, which was one better than Jon Rahm’s whopping 33-under total. Last week, Hideki Matsuyama went 63, 63 on the weekend to win the Tour’s Sony Open. And all of a sudden, there were whispers that golf was no longer a sport that would require you to go to a website for tips.
Golf, at least in Abu Dhabi, heard.
And it turned on the fans.
There are windy days. And there are swearing-into-the-wind windy days. During Friday’s second round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, the season opener on the formerly named European Tour, the leader opened with a double bogey on his way to a 74, every hole except for two par-5s played harder than the day before, and major winners shot over multiple strokes par. On and on. All thanks to wind gusts of up to 30 mph.
“I’ve never been so glad to get off the golf course,” Rory McIlroy was heard saying as he walked off the 18th green, his three-over 75 likely putting him just inside the tournament cutline. (A number of players were still on the course when play was suspended due to darkness.)
With that, let’s unpack it all. Hold onto your hats.
What were the scores like?
Not every player was blown away. Jeff Winther shot a three-under 69. Sam Horsfield was two-under through 14. Seven players shot one-under or were at the number and still on the course. But that was it. Only nine players broke par 72. Out of the 131 who finished the day. (One player withdrew.)
Hatton and Bernd Wiesberger shot 77s. Tommy Fleetwood a 76. Lee Westwood and Viktor Hovland fired 74s. All were members of last September’s European Ryder Cup team. Robert MacIntyre, one of the players who just missed a spot on the squad, shot an 80. Collin Morikawa, one of the members of the winning U.S. side, signed for a 74.
At the top of the leaderboard was Scott Jamieson, who followed a Thursday 63 with a Friday 74. At the other end was Ahmed Al Musharrekh, whose second-round scorecard, through 13 holes, reads like this: double, double, par, double, par, double, bogey, par (for a front-nine 46), double, bogey, bogey and bogey.
What were they saying?
But the scores can say only so much. Afterward, wind was the word, and the comments were revealing.
Shane Lowry, an Irishman who’s no stranger to such conditions, was asked if it was true that Friday would be “a day Shane Lowry is going to love.” He had shot a 72.
“I don’t love it,” he said. “I’d prefer it was calm, but I know how to play in those conditions. Yeah, I knew going out this morning that it would be up. I knew that go out and just play my game and do my thing. Because it’s in the wind, I think about it a lot less, and I just hit the shots and I just hit the shots I see. That’s what makes me so good in the wind, I think. I just kind of play with a lot of feel. Yeah, it worked. I was decent today, and hopefully it’s not going to be as windy on the weekend, but it will still be blustery. Yeah, we’ll see.”
Jamieson was asked if it was “a battle.”
“Yeah, it certainly wasn’t easy,” he said. “You know, we knew the forecast, but when you’re in your hotel room in the morning and the locker room, clear day, and before you play, it’s a little easier, but then you experience it and get out there, yeah, it’s so tricky, obviously hitting shots is tricky with all the gusts, but the hardest thing is putting. You get over the ball and you feel like you’ve got to be so tense to stop everything moving, but that’s the worst thing you can do when you’re trying to putt.”
Ian Poulter, who shot a 72, was asked: “Are these conditions to relish, or just battle?”
“Both,” he said. “Early in the season, you haven’t hit those shots for quite some time, and you’re fighting the wind and trying to draw the golf ball. It’s really tricky. So you know, a poor shot with the wrong wind gets really punished. I really only hit one or two of those, but I didn’t really get punished.
“I got to the last hole today and had a 25-foot birdie putt, and when you’ve birdied 1 and 2, it takes you all the way around to 18, it’s like, it’s been a while before you have another good look at making birdie. But that was tough. That was tricky. That was dicey hitting some of those shots into the pins right on the edge of the water. In some respects, you enjoy it, and in some respects, it’s actually kind of miserable.”
And McIlroy was asked “how well” he was playing.
“I had absolutely no idea.”
How do you play into the wind?
Still, it’s not as if Friday was the first round with a breeze, and Lowry also dished on how to hit when it’s slapping you in the face.
“I think you just need to make sure you’re probably taking a little bit off your swing speed,” he said. “I nudge the ball back a little bit in my stance. I tee it up the same height with my driver, but I just really feel like I’m trying to trap it and trying to hit down on it with less speed because if you hit down on it with too much speed, it will just spin up. You try to hit a few nice drives, low draws there today, and it was pretty good. I just aimed it right and back in my stance a little bit and just kind of sort of 85 percent swing and swing through.”
What did it look like?
Need a look for yourself? If you did not watch it live, the European Tour also shared a few videos.
And below that is a reader-captured shot of Hatton on the 12th, though if you like your golf only PG, please hit the mute button.