Although the freakish past 12 months has led to tragedy for many and huge disruption to the sporting calendar, golfer Tyrrell Hatton will look back on 2020 as a breakthrough year.
He began it recovering from wrist surgery and sat 32nd in the world rankings, but by the end of the year he was in the top 10.
“2020 has been a very strange year and difficult for a lot of people,” Hatton told CNN’s Living Golf’s Shane O’Donoghue.
“For me personally, 2020 on the golf course has been basically the best of my career so far. “
After nearly a decade in the professional game – the Englishman made his debut in August 2011 – it was the need for surgery on a long-term injury and a subsequent spell on the sidelines that preceded his breakthrough period.
“I fell over at the Masters in 2017,” he remembers. “I’d slipped on the pine straw.
“From that moment, it was an issue with my wrist, two and a half years in pain, several steroid injections to manage it. It got to the point where it’s not sustainable to keep doing that. I had the operation and thankfully it helped. I’ve been pain free since.”
Initially Hatton was apprehensive after surgery, admitting he felt “nervous about how I was going to recover.”
“It was scary,” he said. “I think that’s quite natural for anyone that has an operation. Thankfully it all worked out.”
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‘My time to win’
Despite a layoff that was longer than he’d hoped for, the 29-year-old came flying back into action in 2020, securing a PGA Tour victory and becoming the first Englishman to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in March.
In understated fashion, he reflects that this was “obviously a very nice surprise.”
“When you first start back, you’re just hoping that you can play some decent golf and obviously you want to be in contention,” he said.
“To be in contention that early back from surgery was great, and I was obviously really happy with how I managed myself. We had a great week and thankfully it was my time to win.”
It was Hatton’s time to win again in October at one of the European Tour’s flagship events, the BMW Championship at Wentworth, where he finished four shots ahead of Victor Perez.
The victory was an especially momentous occasion for Hatton, having attended the historic tournament as a child, and was crucial for his progression into the top 10 of the world rankings.
“I felt every bit of nerves that I’d expect to feel in years gone by when we’ve got the crowds,” he said.
“It was definitely nice to have those feelings and to get over the line on Sunday when naturally you are a bit nervous coming down the back nine. It was a great win.
“To get inside the top 10; that was definitely a career goal. So to win Wentworth and break inside the top 10 in the world rankings in the same week was very special and a dream come true really.
“I always thought that Wentworth was … if I could choose one event to win it would be that one. It made it a lot sweeter.”
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When his thoughts turn to 2021, Hatton explains that winning majors would be “nice,” making the Ryder Cup team is “the main goal,” and if the opportunity to play in the Olympics arose he “would definitely go.”
However, with all those opportunities ahead, he is quick to point out: “There are certainly no guarantees.”
“You always have to just keep going and try your best.
“I will look back on this year with fond memories, but at the same time, I think we’re all quite excited to see the back of 2020. Mixed emotions, but golfing terms, I’m happy.”