From odd-job man to caddying for Tyrrell Hatton
Having one of your best mates on your bag is the new in thing on tour.
Tommy Fleetwood might not have started it but he broke some sort of mould when he got together with his good mate Ian Finnis to help his slump of last year turn into two wins and what looks like the Race to Dubai title.
Earlier this year Rory and JP parted and in stepped childhood mate Harry Diamond and then father figure Colin Swatton was retained as Jason Day’s coach but not his caddie.
The latest, and as successful as the Fleetwood-Finnis axis, is Tyrrell Hatton and Jonathan Bell. Even over the phone it’s very easy to understand why Bell got the nod. He’s as down to earth as he is upbeat. He’s looking out for his mate and his mate is coming up trumps for the pair of them.
And he can play the game. Bell is a pro himself, a former Faldo Series winner and England international before trying his luck on the EuroPro Tour in recent years.
The pair got together in Switzerland in early September on the back of six missed cuts in seven starts as a season that had begun brightly looked like turning into a bit of an annus horribilis. Four majors meant four missed cuts and a stroke average of 75.75.
Their first round together added up to 64 and, from there, it has got even better. A 3rd-place at Crans was followed by 8th at the British Masters, and the last two weeks have produced back-to-back triumphs at the Dunhill Links and Italian Open and a total of 45 under par.
In their time together, over just four events, the new World No. 17 Hatton and Bell have won a cool £1.69 million.
What's better than @TyrrellHatton's winning putt?
His winning putt in Italian ?? pic.twitter.com/PF80lnUnqm
— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) October 16, 2017
NCG caught up with Bell after their latest triumph…
What’s been the story since you’ve been a pro?
I played a couple of years on the EuroPro Tour without too much success. Then two and a half years ago found out I needed to have surgery on my elbow so I was out for six months. I took last year off to get back into the swing of things, then this year I haven’t played any competitive golf. The plan was to play some events and fund myself but I didn’t feel 100 per cent ready to do that.
All summer I have been doing part-time gardening in the mornings and then playing in the afternoon.
How did you get together?
Tyrrell rang me the week before Crans and asked if I would caddie for him in Switzerland. I had caddied for him once before in Morocco three years ago as his caddie was getting his passport renewed or changed. We made the cut but it was a bit out of the blue when he did ring.
I asked how long I would be needed and he said maybe until the end of the season. We finished third so we got off to a good start and it’s carried on from there.
Why do you think you got the phone call?
He knows I have played to a high level and his manager said he wasn’t having much fun or enjoying it – and he now seems happier and more relaxed on and off the course which maybe having a friend with him has helped.
How close are you? Going on holiday together close?
We first met at a par 3 tournament at Wycombe Heights when we were seven and since then our parents have been good friends and I was coached by his dad for a couple of years. We would speak most weeks and, when he’s back at home, we will hook up for a game or go to dinner.
We haven’t been on holiday. He’s going away with ‘Beef’ to Cancun with their girlfriends at the end of the year.
How does the partnership work? He always says he likes to keep things fairly simple?
Tyrrell chooses his clubs. If he wants some input I will give it but I let him get on with it. I carry the course planner so I give him the yardages and run-outs. He’s not a very technical player, he’s very natural so it’s more a case of pointing him in the right direction and let him fire. He doesn’t like too many numbers.
We will generally get there on the Monday evening, play nine and practise Tuesday and I will always walk the course at least twice before the tournament and map out the greens. I will know where I’m going by the time we tee off.
How do you rate yourself as a caddie?
I don’t want to sound arrogant but I feel like I’m doing a good job at the moment. As a player myself I know what he wants to hear in the heat of battle.
If the original plan was to work together until the end of the year what is it now?
We haven’t had a discussion about the future so, as far as I’m aware, I’m caddying for the rest of the season. I’m sure that conversation will come up soon.
And if the job was on offer for a longer term?
If the opportunity was there to caddie I would take it as having a year out of playing wouldn’t do me any harm. If the decision was to be made then I would carry on as we are.
Have you had to renegotiate your terms?
We were up front at the start and nothing has changed. Tyrrell is a kind guy and is really looking after me well so I’m happy.
It has really taken a lot of stress off me with the money. After Switzerland we had a few weeks off so I played in a pro-am and shot 6 under and won.
How nervous do you get on a Sunday?
I’ve surprised myself that I’ve not been that nervous. A lot of the stuff that I do is factual and I’m good with numbers, there’s the right answer and the wrong answer. When you are playing the shot there are a lot more emotions involved.
There was more adrenaline in Italy as we were coming from behind and the crowds were livelier.
Tyrrell was making a lot of birdies and, to hole one on the last, was amazing. I was more excited than nervous probably. I would be nervous if he wasn’t hitting it well but his long game has been so solid.
He sent me a nice message after the Dunhill saying I had done really well in not changing in the situation and that I was the same as I had been all week so I thought that was really nice of him.
Burger King ?? pic.twitter.com/U30Ij9tac3
— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) October 15, 2017
How was the Burger King?
We were starving! We missed our flight home and there were two tickets for three of us on the 10pm flight so I gave his girlfriend Emily my one and I got on through a standby.
We ordered a load of Burger King and stuffed our faces.
Any other treats?
I’ve not really had time. I’m going to Paris this week for a couple of nights for my girlfriend’s birthday, it was the same day as Tyrrell’s (the Saturday in Italy) so I missed that.
And then it’s four straight weeks again.
Is he a better player than you thought?
I am slightly biased but his ball striking is so consistent and so impressive. And he is very long.
His way of practicing is to play golf and get out on the course, being on the range doesn’t work for him. I’m more technical as a player but I’m trying to be less so like that now. You give Tyrrell a number and the club and he gets on with it. He’s not thinking about his swing.
What do you chat about?
I try and keep his mind off golf in between the shots as you can easily burn yourself out on the course. We’ll talk about anything, just not golf.
Tyrrell might not be the most patient player, how do you help with that?
In Italy he was getting really frustrated as the putts weren’t dropping and he felt like he had to get off to a quick start as he was a few behind. I just said anything can happen on a Sunday you just have to stay with it, you could birdie the last five.
I’m just trying to give him some positive vibes. It did seem to get into his head as he mentioned it in his press conference so it’s nice to know that I’m saying the right things sometimes and having some sort of positive impact on him.
Is he a good listener?
Once he has a bit of quiet time in between shots then he might process what I have said.
Why do you think having your mate on the bag is working so well these days?
They are all great players and maybe they have realised that if you take care of yourself emotionally and have a good time then the golf can take care of itself. There is nothing worse than not getting on well with someone and spending all day with them.
If he caddied for me he would be the same as I am with him. At the end of the day we just want the best for each other.
Has it occurred to you that you might caddie in the Ryder Cup next year?
Someone sent me an email this morning and it hit me that it might be a small possibility.
Given the choice would you rather play on the European Tour or win a major with Tyrrell?
I would play on the European Tour. It is amazing to caddie but it’s not quite the same as playing yourself, nothing could replace that.