From Tyrrell Hatton’s move into the top five of the Official World Golf Rankings to Paul Casey’s 15th European Tour victory and Dustin Johnson’s second Saudi success, here’s what happened during the 2021 Desert Swing
Tyrrell Hatton makes world ranking jump with Abu Dhabi win
Tyrrell Hatton moved to a career high in the Official World Golf Ranking after he became the first winner of the 2021 season with a dominant four stroke victory at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Having begun the day one shot behind Rory McIlroy, Hatton produced a brilliant closing round of 66 to finish five shots ahead of the four-time Major winner and four clear of Australia’s Jason Scrivener – who came home in an impressive 29.
For Hatton, a sixth European Tour victory in his 151st appearance was significant, securing his move up to World Number Five.
He also joined Jon Rahm as the only other player to have won four Rolex Series titles, adding to his victories at the 2020 BMW PGA Championship, 2019 Turkish Airlines Open and 2017 Italian Open
"It's surreal to be honest," he said immediately after. "Even knocking the putt in on 18 doesn't seem like I've won the tournament but it's amazing.
"I've always loved starting my season here in Abu Dhabi and to now add my name on that trophy with so many great champions before me is a huge honour.”
Paul Casey hits European Tour milestone
Casey entered the day with a one-shot lead and had extended that advantage to five shots with five to play thanks to a level par front nine and birdies at both 11 and 13.
Although the gap was trimmed, Casey remained in control, making a final hole birdie to close out a four stroke victory over South Africa’s Brandon Stone.
"I'm all emotional with wins, but this one is such a prestigious event," said Casey, whose win also moved him back into the top 20 on the Official World Golf Ranking and saw him become the 18th player to win 15 times on the European Tour.
"The history which is behind you, and I can see it from here with amazing winners, is basically a who's who in world golf.
"I'm so over the moon. Not just 15, the fact it's Dubai. It's an iconic event on the European Tour. One of the coolest trophies around.
Dustin Johnson’s Saudi success
In the third event of 2021, Dustin Johnsonheld off challenges from Tony Finau, Victor Perez and Justin Rose to claim his second Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers title by two shots.
The World Number One, who won the inaugural event here two years ago before finishing as runner-up to Graeme McDowell 12 months later, carded a closing 68 to finish on 15 under par.
He had started the day two shots clear but struggled with the putter on a dramatic day at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club. In the end, late mistakes from both Perez and Finau proved costly and a birdie on 17 all but secured the Masters Champion’s ninth European Tour title.
“I knew I was hitting it well, I saw the leaderboard and I knew the guys were playing well,” he said.
“I don't get to play around the world as much as I'd like to and its definitely nice to get a win not on my tour.
“After Augusta to get my first win, the game's still in really good form and I'm looking forward to the rest of the year.”
Ryder Cup Points
The European Ryder Cup Points race resumed with the 2021 European Tour season, and the first three events saw some significant moves from several players.
Tyrrell Hatton’s win – and subsequent top 10 at the Saudi International – vaulted him to the top of the automatic European Points List on 4,373.64 points, while Paul Casey’s victory saw him jump up the ranks to sixth on the World Points List on 119.50 points, meaning he would currently qualify in the second automatic qualifying spot.
Also on the World Points List, Viktor Hovland (90.27 points) moved up four spots into the final automatic qualifying spot after finishing in a tie for sixth at the Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisors, and is bidding to become Norway’s first Ryder Cup player.
Meanwhile, France’s Victor Perez did his best to improve his chances of making a Ryder Cup debut with a tie for fourth at Royal Greens G&CC. Perez is presently fifth on both the European Points List with 3,025.15 points and would currently qualify in the first automatic spot on the World Points List as he sits in fifth with 136.66 points.
Hatton (4,373.64 points), Tommy Fleetwood (4,364.66 points), Jon Rahm (3,747.50 points) and Rory McIlroy (3,29.44 points) sit in the automatic qualification places on the European Points List.
Meanwhile, Perez (136.66 points), Paul Casey (119.50 points), Danny Willett (99.92 points), Matthew Fitzpatrick (96.87 points) and Hovland (90.27 points) will qualify via the World Points List.