Tyrrell Hatton is looking to find his very best form again as he prepares to defend his Italian Open title this week at Gardagolf Country Club.
The Englishman arrived for the Rolex Series event last season off the back of a victory at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and made it back-to-back victories as part of a remarkable run of results.
Hatton achieved 12 consecutive top 20s on the European Tour in between the US PGA Championship and the Masters Tournament, including those two victories, with three World Golf Championships on that list of high finishes.
His stellar play got him as high as 13th in the Official World Golf Ranking and with a seven million dollar prize fund on offer this week, a successful defence would have him back on an upward trajectory in a Ryder Cup year.
The opening Rolex Series event of the season last week was a disappointment for Hatton as he missed the cut at the BMW PGA Championship. The 26 year old was nursing a wrist injury at Wentworth Club, however, and is looking to bounce back in style now he is pain-free.
Hatton will have to overcome an Italian Open field bursting with quality to successfully defend this week.
Following his victory at Wentworth last week, Francesco Molinari will shoulder the majority of the burden of expectation from an adoring Italian golfing public, while Race to Dubai Champion Tommy Fleetwood, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Graeme McDowell and Ian Poulter are among the international stars to have descended upon the stunning Lake Garda venue this week.
Tyrrell Hatton: “Good memories being back here. It’s a new venue. Looking forward to it and hopefully I can put up a good defence.
“I caught a hot streak and it was certainly a good time to do it with the Ryder Cup points starting off so it was a nice start. It would nice to recapture some of that form again.
“Wentworth was a tough week. It wasn’t ideal preparation prior to that where I’d had a bit of an issue with my wrist again, I needed a cortisone injection so it didn’t really give me any time to practise the week prior to Wentworth. I was going in there a little bit rusty, just hoping that I could still play well and it didn’t really work out.
“I’ve had the weekend to carry on practising and trying to feel comfortable again. it’s gradually getting there, I’m pain-free which is a good thing so now I can play pain free I can try and get comfortable again and hopefully I can play some good golf.
“I’ve heard it’s a beautiful place, I look forward to playing nine holes a bit later and seeing it.”
Tommy Fleetwood: “The Saturday was nice. Last year was a different scenario to this year, I think it was my second tournament back after having a baby and it was getting towards the end of the year on the Race to Dubai and there was a lot going on.
“I have always enjoyed coming to Italy, I love the coffee. It’s really nice, it’s a nice vibe. We’ve been at the same course for two or three years so coming to a different venue that we’ve never been to before, there’s just a little bit more prep needed.
“Last week was one of the busiest weeks I’ve ever had as a pro but it was great and I had a lot of home support and I loved every minute of it but it was very busy. This week it’ll be a bit quieter but the goals are the same, ultimately come Sunday I want to be in the same position and the golf is what matters.
“It makes it a little bit easier to practise and prepare when you’ve got that little bit more time but you’re always trying to do the same things.
“Rounds like Saturday, I try to keep away from too often and it was just one of those days where I did everything wrong and it just came out nowhere. Sunday after when I played very well it was always going to be little bit disappointing when I’d put myself in such a good position after Friday but it happens.
“Golf has a way of kicking you in the teeth sometimes. You need days like that just to learn from and to move forward, you’re going to keep going forward if everything is all hunky dory so, appreciate the good days, learn from the bad days and hopefully I can take some of that stuff that I’ve learned into this week and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Rafa Cabrera Bello: “The event is a great event and this part of the world is very beautiful, so I am happy to be back.
“I played the back nine today and the course looks great. It is old school, which is something nice because we don’t have the opportunity to play that so often. It felt nice and a bit tricky, hopefully the rain will stay away, and the course will dry up, but I think it’s going to be a good test.
“The rough felt thick out there so I think driving and being in the fairway is going to be very important, and with the greens as they played a bit soft today, you can take a big advantage from solid iron play, so if you can hit the fairways and knock them in you can really hit them very close.
“I felt I had a good week last week. I finished top ten, the game went from less to more, as we say in Spain, but it improved throughout the week. I drove it very good, around the greens it was very sharp as well, maybe a bit of improvement needed on my iron game to the green, but I feel it is coming in the right direction.
“The importance the Rolex Series has on the European Tour schedule is magnificent. It has raised the standard of the EuropeanTour to a really high level and to be part of that last year was great. I would love to be part of the Rolex Series winners circle again this week.”