What was the wildest part of the Travelers Championship’s wild conclusion?
Was it Bubba Watson, tournament leader, who was tied for the lead through 13 and then played the final five holes in six over par?
Was it Harris English, canning a 28-footer for birdie at 18 to post the clubhouse lead?
Perhaps it was Kramer Hickok, searching for his first Tour win, matching English’s posted number with a 72nd-hole birdie of his own?
Or maybe the wildest moment was an exchange between Hickok and English on their second playoff hole. English was plugged in the lip of the front bunker while Hickok hit what appeared to be a perfect birdie putt from the back edge of the green. Hickok was ready to throttle up a full fist pump before his ball dived left at the very last second and lipped out. Moments later, English pulled off the improbable up-and-down from the bunker and the playoff continued.
But as it turns out, on the second playoff hole the golf tournament was still just beginning. The wildest part of all was just how long the entire tournament went. The crowd at TPC River Highlands was chanting, and rooting, and hoping the playoff kept going. Most of them, at least.
They made up-and-downs. They missed short birdie putts. They suffered heartbreaking lip-outs. They rammed first putts well past the hole and drained them on the way back.
They made par after par after par. English made seven pars. Hickok made seven pars. And finally, English broke the spell with a birdie on his 80th hole of the week, concluding the tournament at long last.
“This was awesome. The fans were keeping us in this it, getting the juice from them,” English said. “Hats off to Kramer. What a competitor.”
It would have been easy for Hickok to make excuses, or rue missed opportunities. Instead he seemed wholly focused on the positive side of things.
“It was a huge learning experience for me. It was just a tremendous day,” he said. “Kudos to Harris. He battled so hard. There was 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.”
The win was the second of the season for English, who triumphed at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in January and finished third at last week’s U.S. Open, too. He has established himself squarely in the conversation for U.S. Ryder Cup Team talk. But on Sunday, English was just happy to be done and victorious.
“I knew I had to stay in it,” he said. “I was tired. Back was getting sore a little bit. But I knew anything could happen. You’ve just got to grind out there.”
Par after par after par after par. But now English is a four-time PGA Tour winner. He’s No. 12 in the world. He’s No. 8 in the U.S. Ryder Cup standings. He’s $1.332 million richer. And he’s probably very tired.
“I love being in that spot,” he said. “I love being in the hunt of a golf tournament, and to come down the stretch and actually pull it off is an unbelievable feeling.”
In this case, “the stretch” turned out to be a lot longer than usual. It must have made victory that much sweeter.