Hickok’s early look at Tiger’s course paying off at WWT

Hickok’s early look at Tiger’s course paying off at WWT
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LOS CABOS, Mexico — Kramer Hickok arrived early to scout Tiger Woods’ new course for the PGA Tour and so far it has paid off. He played bogey-free again Friday with a 5-under 67 to set the pace at the World Wide Technology Championship.

Hickok took care of two of the par 5s and some of the short par 4s with a wedge in hand to reach 12-under 132, one shot ahead of a group that includes Ludvig Åberg of Sweden and Monday qualifier Jeffrey Kang.

Cameron Percy, the 49-year-old from Australia already thinking about Q-School for the PGA Tour Champions next year, was 10 shots worse than his opening round but still in reasonable shape. He had a 72 and was two shots behind.

Camilo Villegas was among those playing in the afternoon at El Cardonal at Diamante, the first course Woods designed that is being used for a PGA Tour event.

It’s at a resort, so the design was built for enjoyment and strategy. But with little wind — the best defense on the course in the foothills near the Pacific Ocean — players were having an easy time. The cut was projecting to be at 5 under par.

Hickok is still searching for his first PGA Tour title. He lost in an eight-hole playoff to Harris English at the Travelers Championship two years ago and figured winning was just around the corner. Instead, he came into this FedExCup Fall event in danger of losing his card at No. 144 in the standings.

“It’s like you keep working, keep working, you don’t see any results, and then finally it’s like, boom, looks like overnight success. That’s sort of what I feel like’s going on now,” Hickok said.

He left nothing to chance in preparation. Hickok arrived early at a nearby resort with whom he has a relationship and came over to El Cardonal, knowing it was new to everyone. With no one on the property, he was able to spend six or seven hours getting to know the course.

“Everyone’s starting at the same spot, so I just really wanted to get a jump start on that,” he said.

Åberg, the top college player last year, finished at Texas Tech and turned pro in June. Four months later, he was celebrating a Ryder Cup victory with his European teammates. His card is set for next year, though he would love to get a PGA Tour win to go with a victory on the European tour in Switzerland. He also has the Masters in view if he can keep moving up the world ranking inside the top 50.

Also at 11-under 133 was Doug Ghim, who is No. 133 in the FedExCup standings. The top 125 keep full cards for 2024, and there’s only two more tournaments after this week.

Most curious is Kang, who got in through a Monday qualifier and has traveled the world since leaving USC nearly a decade ago. The PGA Tour is the ninth tour Kang has played, mostly in Canada and various circuits in Asia. His lone victory is the Chengdu Championship on the old PGA Tour China series in 2018.

He recalls getting about $40,000 for that victory, the biggest check of his career.

“Hopefully, this is bigger” said Kang, who made his first cut on the PGA Tour and is in contention going to the weekend.

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