Harris English wins the Travelers Championship in the playoffs
CROMWELL, Connecticut – TPC River Highlands would be a horrible place to open a fortune teller shop. No Ouija board or tea leaf can help anyone predict what will happen around the 6,827 yard course on Sunday. Jim Furyk shot the PGA Tour’s only 58 here in 2016, and Jordan Spieth retreated from a bunker on the green in a playoff to beat Daniel Berger in 2017.
After starting the day seven shots behind the leaders overnight, Kevin Kisner shot a 63 but left the course an hour before the leaders took the start even though he was tied with them. He knew his score of 10 under par wouldn’t be good enough to win. Hours later Australia’s Marc Leishman signed for a 64 and finished 12 under, but he wasn’t convinced the score would be good enough to win.
He was almost wrong.
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The magic number turned out to be 13 under par (267), the score Harris English hit after shooting 65 and Kramer Hickok finished after posting a 67 to force a sudden death playoff.
No one knew that the tournament itself would end up being the appetizer. The main course was a culminating eight-hole playoff with fans rippling around the 18th green and par after a dying par set on a course that netted 263 birdies on the final round.
In the end, the Englishman outlived Hickok after eight holes in the playoffs to claim his fourth PGA Tour victory. It was the first time that a PGA Tour qualifier had been held over eight holes since 2012 when John Huh defeated Robert Allenby at the Mayakoba Golf Classic.
“It was awesome. The fans were keeping us in there, getting the juice out of them, ”English said. “It’s been really all afternoon. Hats off to Kramer. What a competitor. We were both grinding. That was what it was about. We were grinding and doing our best.
After seven round-trip holes of golf, with each player having their chances of winning but not capitalizing, Hickok’s approach to the 18th green on the eighth hole of the playoffs passed the hole by 27 feet. The crowd screamed and chanted their name (“Kramer! Kramer! Kramer!), Then calmed down before the Englishman hit a 138-yard space that stopped just over five feet.
Hickok’s putt was missed and he tapped for his eighth by before the English stepped up.
“This hole location is weird,” he said, referring to the 18. “I had a similar lie in the rulebook and I had that 10ft to win it on the fifth or sixth hole of the playoffs and it broke fairer than I thought it would. I got a good feel for that putt and hit it good and luckily I got in.
Athletes and coaches all the time put a positive spin on tough losses, often talking about moral victories. This playoff was one of the few times when both players really felt like winners in the end. Of course, English has won 500 FedEx Cup points, will move up to 12th in the official world golf rankings on Monday with his second win of the season and took home $ 1.3 million. Nonetheless, Hickok couldn’t help but smile at the end, even though he failed to secure his first PGA Tour victory.
“Harris is a good pal of mine and he’s such a great guy,” he said afterward while holding his puppy Elvis, a black lab. “We were just relaxed, but at the same time you are fighting. I’m trying to get my first Tour win, and he’s trying to get another one. It was fun, but it was just hard to make birdies with the way the pins were located.
Hickok believed he had won the tournament twice. With English plugged into a bunker on the green on the second hole of the playoffs, Hickok thought his 43 birdie putt was going to come in, but he wrapped around the cup and let go. His par was virtually guaranteed, putting all the pressure on English, but the former University of Georgia All-American gutted the seven-footer to save the par and extend the playoffs.
Hickok also thought he would make a 12-foot birdie putt on the fifth hole of the playoffs, but he burned the left edge.
At the next playoff hole, Hickok thought he would lose after running a birdie putt 15 feet past the hole. He gutted his comebacker, then the Englishman missed a seven-foot birdie putt that would have won the tournament.
” It was hard. I mean, my hamstrings were getting tired, my back was getting tired. I know Kramer probably felt the same, ”English said. “You have to lock in and make every shot the most important. It’s hard.”
Still smiling, Hickok said, “I just looked at him like it was a privilege. I just wanted to take it and take it as it is. I was so happy to be in this situation, and I’m just going to use it in my career and hope to learn a lot.