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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Tyrrell Hatton couldn’t help himself. His “hit and hope” 4-iron at 18 through the pine trees and to just outside 10 feet was so magnificent that his facial muscles couldn’t hold back any longer.

“I actually smiled on the golf course,” Hatton said.

Why wouldn’t he after pulling off a miraculous shot and cashing in with a birdie to shoot 29 coming home and tie the back-nine scoring record at the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass.

The birdie at the last capped off a 7-under 65 for Hatton and a 72-hole total of 12-under 272. His birdie binge catapulted him from T-26 at the start of the day to clubhouse leader (with Scottie Scheffler still needing to play the back nine Hatton had just torched).

Hatton was stuck in neutral with just one birdie canceled out by a bogey at nine, where he blocked his tee shot into the water.

“I was pretty angry at that moment,” he said.

But he birdied 10 and 12 and then closed with five straight birdies, the longest birdie string of his career on the PGA Tour.

After sticking his tee shot at 17 to 3 feet, Hatton blocked his tee shot into the pines, but had a window if he could aim at the water and cut it back to the green.

“It was a risky shot, but it never crossed my mind to just try and chip out,” he said.

Wow!!@TyrrellHatton pulls off an incredible recovery shot from the pine straw on 18.

He’ll have a 12-footer for birdie to get to 12-under @THEPLAYERSChamp.

— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 12, 2023

Adding to the degree of difficulty from 208 yards? The lie in the pine straw.

“I couldn’t get the club properly behind the ball and had to hover it quite far back,” he said. “For it to come out as well as it did, obviously I was delighted with (the result).”

While Hatton was recounting the shot and his finish during multiple media stops, Scheffler went on his own mini-birdie binge to build a commanding lead. But Hatton still was smiling from ear to ear.

“If you had said that you would finish second in the tournament or tied second and you don’t have to play the back nine, I think you would take that,” he said.