The legend of Kramer Hickok was written not in a Travelers Championship that he won – it was Harris English who ultimately got the trophy late Sunday afternoon at TPC River Highlands – but in a remarkable eight-hole playoff in which Hickok co-starred in the most unexpectedly unforgettable finish this year.
Hickok, who arrived at the Travelers ranked 139th in FedEx Cup points and was perhaps best known for being one of Jordan Spieth’s best buddies and a former roommate, had missed more cuts than he had made in his previously innocuous Tour career.
That all changed Sunday as the 29-year-old Hickok birdied the 72nd hole to force a playoff with English, who moments earlier had made a long birdie putt on the same green thinking it might have won him the tournament.
Two hours and a string of pars were finally interrupted by the winning birdie, and English had his fourth tour win and second of the season. But Hickok could hear his name – “Kramer! Kramer! Kramer!” – ringing in his ears from the thousands of fans who adopted him as the entertaining and extended conclusion played out.
Like Spieth, Hickok putted like an angel throughout Sunday afternoon, continually holing par putts in the playoff to stay alive or to force English to match him. They both parred the first seven extra holes until English won with a birdie that Hickok couldn’t match, ending the second-longest playoff in tour history.
A victory would have changed Hickok’s career, sending him to the Masters, the Players Championship and the winners-only event in Maui in January, among other things. But the disappointment of not winning was softened by moving inside the top 70 in the points race, essentially securing full status for next year as well as a spot in the playoffs.
“It was a huge learning experience for me,” Hickok said. “It was just a tremendous day. It was just a hard-fought battle out there. Played tough. Kudos to Harris. He battled so hard.
“There were times I put him in a tough spot, he put me in a tough spot, and he came out on top and he’s a true champion.”
Was there a lesson Hickok will take with him moving forward?
“I learned that I belong,” he said. “You can always tell yourself that ... I could have easily won today. It’s just, ‘Keep my head up, keep my chin up and take what I learned from (Sunday) and keep battling,’ and go next week and see what happens.”
Ron Green Jr.