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After eight playoff holes at Travelers, the winner is... Harris English

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CROMWELL, Conn. – "Kramer vs. Kramer," Best Picture winner at the 1979 Academy Awards, runs one hour, 43 minutes.

"Kramer vs. Harris" was nearly 20 minutes longer but just as enjoyable.

For more than two hours, Kramer Hickok and Harris English treated the fans on site at TPC River Highlands to some bonus footage, an eight-hole playoff that extended almost until darkness.

"I knew I had to stay in it. I was tired. Back was getting sore a little bit," English said. "But I knew anything could happen. You've just got to grind out there. ... It was a good fight, and came down to somebody making birdie finally."

Yes, finally. After eight extra holes – the first seven were tied with pars – English drained a 16-foot birdie putt to notch his second victory of the season.

"I love being in that spot," English added. "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."

Early on it appeared as if Sunday's star would be Bubba Watson, but the three-time Travelers champion, in his own words, threw up on himself on the back nine, costing himself a record-tying win and leaving the pro-Bubba Connecticut crowd largely disappointed by Watson's latest sequel.

While Watson's collapse looked to have set the stage for English's closing 5-under 65 to get the job done in regulation, it was Watson's playing competitor who turned this finale back into a drama. Hickok, the 29-year-old former college teammate/roommate of Jordan Spieth, needed birdie at the par-4 18th to force a playoff with English, and he was unfazed by the moment, wedging it 108 yards to 8 feet and sinking the putt to extend the afternoon.

"I mean, it was just see ball, hit ball for me," Hickok said. "I get in trouble when I let all the exterior distractions and intangibles get in the way, so I was just remembering all those good shots I hit. Going back on the range this morning I was hitting that exact same shot, and I had a little adrenaline pumping so I knew it was going to be the perfect club, so it was just full commitment and let it go." 


Travelers win is 'validation' for Harris English

Travelers win is 'validation' for Harris English

Hickok and English hit plenty more good shots in the playoff, mostly with the putter, as they combined to make over 80 feet of putts in eight holes. The playoff almost faded to black two holes in, but Hickok's 43-foot birdie try lipped out on the par-4 18th. Two holes later, again at No. 18, Hickok was reminded of Spieth's iconic bunker hole-out to win the 2017 Travelers in a playoff.

"I was imagining the shot that [Spieth] hit and I thought I might have holed it for a second," said Hickok, who instead settled for an up-and-down par from the sand. He also lipped out a birdie on the fifth extra hole.

"I had a couple good chances," Hickok added. "... I did everything I could have done."

The fans appreciated the production effort, evidenced by chants of "Kra-mer! Kra-mer!" English, though, blocked it all out.

"It's hard to stay mentally into it and not to lose focus," English said. "But I tried really hard to stay focused and stay sharp and really be on my toes, because in a playoff situation in match play scenarios like that, you got ready for anything."

English eventually stole the show, taking advantage of Hickok's missed opportunities to win, the last coming on the eighth playoff hole, the sixth trip through No. 18, where Hickok failed to hole a 28-footer for birdie. English said the two had been joking with each other that, at some point, somebody had to make birdie.

That somebody was English.

"I expected Kramer to hole every single putt, and just trying to stay in it," English said. "I felt like I fought pretty hard and had a couple chances to get it done, but finally after No. 8 we got it done." 

Though it fell short of the PGA Tour record for longest playoff (11 holes, 1949 Motor City Open, which ended in a tie between Cary Middlecoff and Lloyd Mangrum), English and Hickok's eight-hole thriller tied for second longest with five other instances, the most recent coming at the 2012 Mayakoba Classic, where John Huh beat Robert Allenby.


Travelers Championship: Full-field scores | Full coverage


Hickok didn't come away with his first Tour win, but his Sunday performance, which included a 3-under 67 and gutsy display in crunch time, still stands out.

"This [round] is No. 1," Hickok said. "I just looked at it like it was a privilege. I just wanted to enjoy it and just take it like it is. I was just so happy to be in this situation, and I'm just going to draw on this going forward in my career and just hopefully learn a lot from it."

As for English, he went seven winless years before getting his third career Tour victory earlier this year at Kapalua. Now, he's got another and rises to No. 8 in the U.S. Ryder Cup standings.

"This is a validation win," English said. "It took me seven years to win this year in Maui, and I think this is a validation of where my game is right now. The Ryder Cup is where I want to play. I love Steve Stricker. I know he's the captain this year. That's what I miss about playing golf at University of Georgia, I miss that team atmosphere, and that's the pinnacle of our sport is to represent your country and to play in probably one of the biggest tournaments in the world.

"I still need to keep playing well and keep showing Strick that I deserve to be on the team."

English showed Stricker he was well worth the price of admission on Sunday, plus a little extra. Eight holes to be exact.