The Travelers Championship has served up some dramatic finishes over the years and this year’s renewal did not disappoint.
The three-time former winner, Bubba Watson, began the final round tied for the lead with pre-event 1000.0 shot, Kramer Hickok, and he looked like kicking on to win the title for a fourth time when he made his third birdie of the final round at the ninth to turn for home with the lead.
Bubba was matched at just 1.528/15 after a great drive on the par five 13th but he mishit his approach, saw his birdie putt narrowly miss, and he completely lost the plot thereafter. He bogeyed 14, 15, 16, double-bogeyed 17, and bogeyed 18. He’d left the 13th green with the lead but he finished tied for 19th!
The 2012 Travelers winner and pre-event 130.0129/1 chance, Marc Leishman, who began the final round trailing by four and trading at around 150.0149/1, was matched at a low of 2.8415/8 after he’d he posted a six-under-par 64 to set a target of -12 and Hickok hit a low of 2.77/4 as Bubba lost his way. And Dave Tindall’s each-way pick, Harris English, went from long odds-on to odds-against when he followed a birdie at 16 with a bogey at 17.
As English headed to the 72nd tee we looked set for a playoff involving Leishman but it wasn’t to be for the Aussie. English holed a 28-foot putt for birdie and Leishman was out of the picture.
English was trading at long odds-on with Hickock the only possible danger and 24K was matched (presumably in error) at 1.011/100 as Hickok played the final hole trailing by a stroke.
A victory for English looked highly likely but Hickok wasn’t going to go down without a fight, and he holed for birdie from just inside nine feet on 18 to take us into extra time. Although someone was given some duff information as English was again matched at 1.011/100 seconds before the putt went in on TV.
Hickok was matched at 1.51/2 as they played the first extra hole (18th) but both players made par and he hit 1.11/10 on the second extra hole before he narrowly missed for birdie from long range and English got up-and-down for par from this lie!
A tough break for Harris English on the second playoff hole. pic.twitter.com/R58BQJKotO
? PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) June 27, 2021
The third extra hole (the 17th) and the fourth (the 18th) were both halved with pars before Kramer again came close to winning at the fifth extra hole (the 17th again) with this birdie attempt.
This. Is. Wild. pic.twitter.com/KUbAFxRmuO
? PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) June 27, 2021
Yet again there was carnage in the market, with almost £4k matched on Kramer at 1.011/100, before English holed for par from just outside six feet and we were back to 18 for the sixth extra hole, where yet again, both men made par but in very differing fashions.
Both players found sand off the tee but English’s approach was far superior, finishing around six feet from the hole. Hickock looked cooked when he hit a poor chip but he holed from around 15 feet for par and English missed his six footer.
Regulation pars were recorded at the seventh extra hole before the tournament was finally concluded when English holed for birdie at the 18th from 16 feet.
It was the second longest playoff ever witnessed on the PGA Tour and It was certainly entertaining but after last week’s US Open on the West Coast, another late Sunday night wasn’t what the doctor ordered. I was extremely relieved when it finally ended!
Over on the European Tour, the pre-event 8.88/1 favourite, Viktor Hovland, began the final round leading by three and trading at around 1.330/100 but he gave the chasers a chance with a very slow start to his final round.
Having reached 17-under-par after three rounds, he was still on that mark after a dozen holes in round four and he was arguably a bit fortunate that his closest pursuers with a round to go – Jorge Campillo (trailed by three), Darren Fichardt (trailed by four) Bernd Wiesberger (trailed by five) and Niall Kearney (trailed by five) – all struggled in round four, with the best any of them could muster being a two-under-par 70.
Campillo was matched at a low of 5.59/2 when he got to within a stroke of Hovland after 11 holes but he played his last seven in one-over par and Martin Kaymer, who had begun round four trailing by eight, transpired to be the man to push Hovland the hardest.
Having been matched at 1000.0, the amiable German, a pre-event 32.031/1 chance, was matched at a low of just 3.711/4 and his fast finish saw Hovland drift all the way out to 1.910/11 but the 23-year-old Norwegian finished his round in impressive fashion. He three-putted the tough par three 17th but birdies at 13, 16 and 18 saw him go on to win by two.
Now up to 13th in the world, Hovland is the first Norwegian to win on the European Tour and he’s a certainty to represent Europe in the Ryder Cup in September.
Hovland is going to take a couple of weeks off to catch up with friends and family in his homeland now so the next time we’ll see him is at the Open Championship at Royal St. George’s. He was 50.049/1 chance to win his first major a week or so ago but after his impressive victory in Munich, he’s now trading at 30.029/1.
The BMW International Open result was a poor one but that was soon forgotten.
I’d written in the In-Play Blog that I expected a dramatic finish and having backed Bubba after round one at 15.014/1, I had a nice platform to trade the drama from.
The Travelers doesn’t disappoint. Year after year we witness all sorts of drama and trading the short-priced leaders nearly always pays dividends.
As is always the case after a night like last night, it’s easy to look back and wish I’d traded even more aggressively, and it always feels like opportunities were missed (laying English at 1.011/100 when Hickok was trailing by just a stroke for starters!) but that serves no purpose. It was a decent week in the end, if a little tiring!
We’ve got two nice events to look forward to this week – the Irish Open on the European Tour and the Rocket Mortgage Classic on the PGA Tour – and I’ll be back later today with my Irish Open preview and probably tomorrow with a look at the Rocket Mortgage.
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter