Hickok off to solid start at Barbasol Championship in quest to maintain PGA TOUR status
July 18, 2019
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
- Kramer Hickok recorded an opening-round 65 at the Barbasol Championship. (Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
LEXINGTON, Kent. – Kramer Hickok has been fortunate enough to become friends with Fred Couples, who is involved with some golf courses developed by one of his sponsors.
When he goes to Palm Springs in the winter, the Texan often gets to play golf with the former Masters champion. And whenever Hickok has questions, Couples is more than happy to share some words of wisdom born of nearly than four decades as a pro.
With his rookie season on the PGA TOUR winding down and his playing privileges far from locked up for the 2019-20 season, Hickok acknowledges he’s been pressing. And while he hasn’t called his mentor, he knows just what Couples, the ultimate in a stress-free golfer, would tell him.
“He would probably say, ‘Go watch some tape of me,’” Hickock said with a chuckle. “His motto and the way he handles himself on the golf course is exactly how I think everyone should handle themselves.
“It's just that calm, cool, relaxed, just enjoying everything that there is about the game of golf. It's a game; we're out here having fun. It is our job, but don't let that get you carried away.”
So, Hickok channeled his inner Couples on Thursday during the first round of the Barbasol Championship. The result was a 65, was his best score since the first round of the AT&T Byron Nelson back in May and left Hickok tied for fourth, just three strokes off the lead.
The solid start is important. Kramer came to Keene Trace Golf Club this week ranked No. 155 in the FedExCup. He needs to be inside the top 125 when the Wyndham Championship is over in three weeks to keep his card, or 150th or better to maintain conditional status.
This year, the Texas alum admits, has been a struggle. A winner on the Korn Ferry Tour last year and a two-time champ on the MacKenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada, Hickok simply hasn’t played the kind of golf he knows he can. Instead of focusing on birdies, he’s worried about FedExCup points and making cuts.
When he missed the cut at the John Deere Classic last Friday, Hickok knew he needed an attitude adjustment. After all, just a few short years ago, he would have given anything to be playing on the PGA TOUR – and he knows there are plenty of people out there who would trade places with him right now.
“You're going to play your best golf when you are -- for me at least -- when I'm having fun and playing like I would when I was back home with my buddies,” Hickok said. “That's the mindset that I'm trying to take going forward. Good golf takes care of itself. It takes care of all those things.
“… All you've got to do is worry about each shot and smile and laugh a little bit, enjoy it. I mean, we're out here playing golf for a living. It's been a dream of mine for so long. I kind of lost sight of that, that I'm out here living my dream, so just go have fun with it.”
And make no mistake, Thursday was fun. Hickok started on the back nine and opened with a pair of birdies, then bounced back from his lone bogey of the day with another to make the turn in 34. Three more birdies on the front and a 23-foot eagle putt at No. 8 added up to 7-under.
“It's not like my game hasn't been -- I've been playing good golf, but I didn't have the score to show for it,” Hickok said. “A little bit of that is, you know, … making a bogey and just maybe just not handling it very well, a little bit upset about it.
“Today, (it was) just move on. Just be in the moment and have fun with it and enjoy the process. Just don't worry about anything. Just go hit it.”
His buddy Couples would have been proud.