GOLF

English wins Travelers, beating Hickok in 8-hole playoff

Jun 27, 2021, 6:52 PM
Kramer Hickok, left, congratulates Harris English after he won the Travelers Championship golf tour...
Kramer Hickok, left, congratulates Harris English after he won the Travelers Championship golf tournament in the eighth playoff hole at TPC River Highlands, Sunday, June 27, 2021, in Cromwell, Conn. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

CROMWELL, Conn. (AP) — Six and a half hours in, Harris English was tired. His hamstrings hurt. His back was sore. After 80 holes in 80-degree heat, he was struggling to focus. Darkness was becoming a factor. He lost count of how many holes he had played.

“It’s hard to stay mentally into it,” English said Sunday after winning an eight-hole playoff — tied for the second-longest sudden death in PGA Tour history — to beat Kramer Hickok and win the Travelers Championship.

“Hats off to him for a good fight,” said English, who shot a 5-under 65 to finish at 13 under and then rattled off seven pars in the playoff before holing a 16-foot birdie putt for the win. “We were both joking that somebody’s got to make a birdie sometime. I had that putt a few times, and I finally read it right.”

Both players birdied the final hole in regulation to force the playoff, which is second only to the 11-hole sudden death in the 1949 Motor City Open, when Lloyd Mangrum and Cary Middlecoff were declared co-winners by mutual agreement due to darkness. Four other events have reached an eighth sudden death hole.

The eight-hole playoff was a record for the tournament, which went seven holes in 1961 (Ted Kroll) and again in ’62 (Bob Goalby), when it was known as the Insurance City Open.

It was the second win this year and the fourth career victory for English, who finished third at the U.S. Open last week — and fourth in the pandemic-delayed U.S. Open in September. He won $1,368,000 and 500 FedEx Cup points, moving into second in the standings.

English sank a 28-footer on the 72nd hole to emerge from a three-way tie and finish at 13 under. Then he headed to the range to stay warm in case Hickock, who was minus-12 with two holes to play, could catch him.

The 29-year-old Texan, who had never won on the PGA Tour, couldn’t convert a 39-foot birdie putt on the 17th, but he knocked in a nine-footer for birdie on No. 18 to match English.

They played 18 again — twice — and parred it again — twice. On to No. 17, then 18, then 17, then 18, then 18 again: All pars. Hickok lipped out on two long birdie putts that would have won it; on the sixth playoff hole, English missed a seven-foot birdie putt to win.

The crowd at the 18th green chanted “Kramer!” and did the wave while it waited for the golfers to head back and forth to the tee. On the final trip down the 438-yard par 4 — their seventh of the day and 10th of the weekend — Hickok put his second shot 28 feet from the pin and two-putted.

English landed his approach 16 feet away and made birdie.

“I don’t know how many it went,” English said afterward. “That was incredible. What an experience, and the fans were awesome. They’re always great here in Hartford, and glad we got to give them a little show at the end.”

Hickok has never won on the PGA Tour. The second-place finish was his best ever, topping a tie for eighth in the 2018 Bermuda Championship that was his only other time in the top 10.

“I learned that I belong,” said Hickok, who was joined after the round by his wife and his puppy, Elvis. “It was a huge learning experience for me.”

Four players were tied at 12 under after Bubba Watson bogeyed the 14th. But the three-time Travelers winner played the last five holes at six over to drop out of the chase.

“I’m glad that I was there, had the opportunity,” Watson said. “You know, I would love to do it again next week, throw up on myself again. It would it be great. I want to the opportunity and the chance to win.”

Watson’s collapse left Hickok — his 54-hole co-leader —- on top at 12 under with English and Marc Leishman, who had finished his round with a 64 two hours earlier.

English finished the fourth round birdie-bogey-birdie, skipping after the ball and pumping his fist after the final hole of regulation. Hickok’s celebration was even more emphatic.

But there was still a playoff to come.

“I never thought I’d be playing 27 holes today,” Hickok said. “I was just trying to put as much pressure on him as possible. He was trying to do the same. I put him in uncomfortable spots, he put me in some too, and he came out on top today, and that’s a true champion.”

Leishman won the tournament in 2012, shooting a 62 on Sunday to come from six strokes behind and earn his first career victory on the tour. This year, he shot 64 in the final round and was the leader in the clubhouse for several hours at 12 under but settled for third.

With plenty of low scores Sunday and all of the leaders still on the course, he sensed it wasn’t enough.

“Nice to make a run and be around the lead,” said Leishman, who did head out to the range to warm up before English took his place. “Not holding my breath, but I won’t be going anywhere.”

Abraham Ancer (65) was fourth at minus-11. Kevin Kisner had his second 63 of the tournament — along with a 70 and a 74 — to tie for fifth at 10 under with Brooks Koepka (65) and three others.

A top-five finish would have moved Dustin Johnson back to the No. 1 spot in the world. But the defending champion shot 71 on Sunday to tied for 25th at 6 under.

Golf

Justin Thomas of the United States poses with the Wanamaker Trophy after putting in to win on the 1...
Associated Press

Justin Thomas wins PGA Championship after entering Sunday 7-shots back

Justin Thomas entered Sunday's final round of the PGA Championship seven strokes behind the leader. After a playoff, he left the champion.
6 days ago
Tiger Woods of the United States plays his shot from the 16th tee during the third round of the 202...
Associated Press

Mito Pereira leads, Tiger Woods withdraws after 3rd round of PGA Championship

Tiger Woods withdraws from the PGA Championship and Mito Pereira holds a three-shot lead after third round action Saturday.
7 days ago
Bryson DeChambeau of the United States plays a shot during a practice round prior to the start of t...
Associated Press

Bryson DeChambeau withdraws from PGA Championship

Bryson DeChambeau withdrew from the PGA Championship on Wednesday after testing his surgically repaired left wrist for two days.
10 days ago
Tiger Woods of the United States warms up on the range during a practice round prior to the start o...
Associated Press

PGA Championship shaping up as much different from previous 4 in Tulsa

Phil Mickelson's absence at the PGA Championship adds to the different feel the tournament has from the previous four.
11 days ago
Phil Mickelson hits his tee shot on the fifth hole of the South Course at Torrey Pines during the f...
Associated Press

Phil Mickelson pulls out of PGA Championship, will not defend title

Phil Mickelson withdrew Friday from the PGA Championship and is the first PGA champion not to defend since Tiger Woods in 2008.
10 days ago
PGA Tour Commission Jay Monahan (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)...
Associated Press

PGA Tour denies releases for players in Saudi-backed event

The PGA Tour is denying releases to golfers who asked to play in the first of a series of Saudi-funded tournaments next month in England.
17 days ago
English wins Travelers, beating Hickok in 8-hole playoff