By Ward Clayton, PGATOUR.COM Contributor
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – There’s great competition in the neighborhood this week for Jonathan Byrd.
His St. Simons Island, Ga., neighbors are offering inspiration for Byrd, who is 6 under and two strokes off the halfway lead at THE PLAYERS Championship held by his friend Zach Johnson. Rookie Harris English is one back after Friday’s 67.
The three live less than two miles apart on the tiny island that is 100 miles north of TPC Sawgrass.
“I played with Harris on Tuesday, and he pretty much spanked me up and down the golf course,” Byrd said. “So I knew he was probably going to play well this week, because his game was really sharp. Zach, I don't see why he doesn’t play well every week; he's so solid.
“But it's good to see the names on the board. I love seeing Zach's name up there, a little extra competition and always like seeing my friends do well.”
Byrd’s return to form has been a slow process. His wife, Amanda, gave birth to their third child, daughter Kate Elizabeth, in late March. After tying for 27 th at the Masters, Byrd tied for ninth in his next start at last week’s Wells Fargo Championship, a tournament that he lost in a playoff to Lucas Glover in 2011.
“I had three weeks off (after the baby was born),” Byrd said. “Then last week, I didn’t know exactly how I was going to come out and had a really good week I felt like … Of course, that’s definitely some momentum coming in here.”
Keeping up with the next-door neighbors will be the next step.
English shares a “rookie” residence at Sea Island with former University of Georgia teammate Hudson Swafford and Gator Todd, the son of former Alabama and New York Jets quarterback Richard Todd. Swafford and Todd are both Nationwide Tour players, with Swafford winning the Stadion Classic in Athens, Ga., last week thanks to a final-round 62 that included a hole-out from a bunker on the 72 nd hole.
Tuesday’s practice round at TPC Sawgrass was the first time English had played a round with Byrd. Last week at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, English was paired with Johnson in the first group off the tee in the final round, with Johnson shooting 72 to English’s 75.
Johnson, an Iowa native, moved from Orlando, Fla., to St. Simons in 2009 for a quieter lifestyle and to be closer to his coaches and the first-class practice facility at the Sea Island Club, home of The McGladrey Classic in the fall on the PGA TOUR. A number of other players reside there, including Davis Love III and Matt Kuchar, and others visit often to get instruction from the bevy of coaches at the club.