It took a remarkable eight playoff holes, but veteran Harris English came out the winner of the 2021 Travelers Championship over Kramer Hickock.
The victory 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. He pocketed $1.332 million for his win at the Travelers Championship.
The 31-year-old English canned a 16-foot putt at the par-four 18th hole shortly after 8 p.m., the sixth time in the playoff that the pair played the 18th (the par-four 17th hole was played twice). The pair finished tied at 13-under-par after regulation play.
“I mean, 17 and 18, both downwind holes, both pretty difficult pins to get close to, and Kramer and I made some great putts,” said English after his fourth PGA Tour victory. “Hats off to him for a good fight. We were both fighting. It seemed like every hole we played one guy had the advantage and the other one ended up making a six- or seven-footer to keep it going.”
English said he and Hickok joked that one of them was going to make a birdie at some point. “I had had that putt (on the final hole) a few times, the last probably hour and a half before, and finally got it right and hit a good putt. I’m excited about where my game is just coming off a three-week stretch where I contended at every tournament.”
English talked about his long day on Sunday. “It was tough. My hamstrings were getting tired, my back was getting tired. I know Kramer was probably feeling the same thing. You’ve got to lock in and make every shot the most important. It’s hard to stay mentally into it and not to lose focus, but I tried really hard to stay focused and stay sharp and really be on my toes, because in a playoff match play scenarios, you got to be ready for anything.”
English said winning the Travelers Championship was special. “It’s a course that’s so much fun to play. It’s always in great shape. The fans out here are incredible, and the Travelers team takes great care of us. I love coming to Hartford, have loved playing in this tournament, and I’ve really enjoyed this golf course.”
He also talked about possibly changing up the way a playoff at the tournament is handled. “I think 15 is one of the best short par-fours we have in golf, and it would be pretty cool to go 18 to 15, because if you hit a good shot you can make birdie or eagle, or if you hit it a little left you can make bogey really quick. But 18 is such a good finishing hole created by the amphitheater around the green, and the fans stayed out there. They were in full force, and it was an awesome experience.”
Some 10,000 fans were allowed into the tournament each day after none were allowed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions on crowd sizes.
Prior to the event, tournament director Nathan Grube, spoke about the challenges of holding the event last year with no fans and moving ahead in 2021 to a more normal scenario. “Trinity Health and New England Stanley Black and Decker said we’re in for 2021, no matter what the version of the Travelers Championship there was going to be. People were patient with us, waiting to see what this version of the tournament was going to be. In January and February, we were looking at 3,000 to 5,000 daily fans. As things progressed around the country with the Tour, we talked about having 10,000 people a day. That was huge for us, that’s huge for our economy and for messaging.”
The Travelers Championship is one of the longest running tournaments on the PGA Tour schedule. The tourney was founded in 1952 as the Insurance City Open and in 1967 it was renamed the Greater Hartford Open, a title that was retained through 2003. From 1973 to 1988, the GHO also bore the name of the late entertainer Sammy Davis, Jr., who would often play in the pro-ams and bring in some of his big-name friends, such as Bob Hope and Flip Wilson. Canon, the camera giant, was a title sponsor from 1985 to 2002, the car company Buick was title sponsor from 2004 to 2006, and The Travelers Companies, a Connecticut-based insurance provider, took over sponsorship in 2007.
The tournament was played for its first three decades at cozy Wethersfield Country Club. In 1984, after the PGA Tour bought and redesigned Edgewood Country Club, the event moved to the new TPC of Connecticut in Cromwell. In 1991, the course was redesigned with a completely new back nine holes and renamed the TPC at River Highlands. The Cromwell facility was the third PGA Tour-owned/managed golf course in what would grow to a network of over 30 TPC clubs.
The tournament has seen a who’s who of professional golf claim the title over the years, from Arnold Palmer and Billy Casper to Greg Norman, Phil Mickelson and Jordan Spieth. Its position on the calendar has varied. Part of the FedEx Cup, the Travelers Championship is now played in June, the week after the U.S. Open. The Travelers is one of the most attended events on the PGA Tour and the tournament set a record attendance in 2002 with nearly 400,000 fans for the week.
The Insurance City Open was founded by the Greater Hartford Jaycees as a means to raise funds to support their philanthropic causes. The Jaycees are international leadership development organization for men and women ages 21 and 40. In 1971, The Greater Hartford Jaycees Foundation, Inc. was established as a grant-giving entity by the Greater Hartford Jaycees, Inc. with the help of PGA pro Bob Murphy, who donated part of his winnings as 1970 Greater Hartford Open champion. The event raises more than a million dollars a year for local charities.