English fulfilling his promise after difficult yearsHe has East Lake in his sights after finishing 149th in last year's FedExCup
August 20, 2020
By Jim McCabe, PGATOUR.COM
Harris English’s interview after Round 1 of THE NORTHERN TRUST
NORTON, Mass. – When the day brings pulsating warmth and the environment is enveloped in solitude – as it was Thursday at TPC Boston – the golf course provides the perfect venue to walk and watch, to study and savor.
So, a march was made to watch the golf in the opening round of THE NORTHERN TRUST, the opener to the FedExCup Playoffs. Different vantage points at first, just to ease in, but at the sight of Harris English’s brilliant eagle at the par-5 second (your basic 97-yard hole-out) and 12-foot birdie at the par-3 third, the decision was made to keep along for a bit more of the ride.
He is easy to watch, easier to like, this young man from Georgia with the gentle saunter. Only what came immediately to mind was not his victories in the 2013 and 2014 seasons that helped establish English’s career, but an old joke someone told about a PGA TOUR veteran who constantly sought out swing coaches.
“You know that list of America’s top 100 instructors,” the joke went. “Well (so and so) has worked with all of them.”
About now, English birdied the par-4 fourth to sit 4 under through four holes and while he didn’t maintain that torrid pace, his eventual 7-under 64 was near flawless. It was also miles from where he had spent the past three seasons, his scores high and his joy low, to the point where he came to chase answers from a bevy of teachers, much like the story of the veteran mentioned to me.
To English’s credit, he concedes to ill-advised pursuits.
“Yeah, over the years I would say I had searched a little bit too much, too much finding the new guy, the hot guy,” he said. “I’ve definitely gotten away from that.”
Instead, he settled on a guy right there in his backyard of St. Simons Island, Georgia, a teaching pro named Justin Parsons who’d given lessons on multiple continents before arriving at Sea Island Resort. Together, they agreed that Harris English had to return to being Harris English, which, truth be told, is a pretty stout goal given what this man had proven capable of.
He had a decorated career at the University of Georgia, which included a win on the Korn Ferry Tour while he was still an amateur. English got his PGA TOUR card shortly after playing in the 2011 Walker Cup with Jordan Spieth, Patrick Cantlay, Russell Henley and a handful more future TOUR players.
As a TOUR rookie in 2012, English finished 79th in the FedExCup standings, with three top-10s and only five missed cuts in 27 starts. His two wins both came in the same calendar year (2013) but were divided between his second (FedEx St. Jude Classic) and third (OHL Classic at Mayakoba) seasons. English was a bubble boy in both campaigns – finishing 31st and 32nd in the FedExCup, just missing out on the TOUR Championship.
So, in 2015 when he made the elite 30-man field for East Lake Golf Club, you can appreciate how English thought it was the start of something special. He had knocked on the door of the TOUR Championship and finally kicked it in at age 26.
Easy, right? The first of many, eh?
English smiled. He was 26 then and if that’s what he was thinking he doesn’t need to apologize. Now, at 31, he will tell you it’s the beauty of the game he has chosen for his livelihood.
“That’s what makes this game so much fun,” he said. “It’s a battle year after year. You have to play for your job every single year. It’s not like these other sports where you’re guaranteed four or five years.
“We’re playing against the best players (and) you see young guys coming up every single year trying to take our jobs.”
ENGLISH'S FEDEXCUP FINISHES Year FedExCup ranking 2020 27th (entering Playoffs) 2019 149th 2018 125th 2017 118th 2016 47th 2015 28th 2014 32nd 2013 31st 2012 79th
In English’s first five seasons, he missed just 27 cuts. Over the next three seasons, he missed 39 cuts – not one for each swing coach he went to, but close. OK, maybe not even close, but English concedes he did seek out too many opinions from too many voices willing to listen and suggest.
He regrets that now but doesn’t dwell on what happened. Instead, he embraces what has never changed about him, not even at the start of 2019-20 when he had conditional status from being ranked 149th in FEC points last year.
“I’ve never taken (playing the PGA TOUR) for granted. I know it’s hard work. It’s always tough and that’s what I love about it.”
He remains in pursuit of that elusive third win, but he has re-discovered the consistency that was a hallmark of his early career. In 17 starts in this stop-and-go PGA TOUR season, English has missed just two cuts and there have been five top-10s. His name has been one constantly popping onto the leaderboard and finally, the ease with which English meanders PGA TOUR fairways matches the peace within.
“I’ve really taken a look inside of what got me to this level, what got me through junior golf to the University of Georgia, what got me through the college ranks to the PGA TOUR,” he said.
From having missed the FedExCup Playoffs last season for the first time in his career to charging to the top of the leaderboard in the Playoffs opener, it’s been a rewarding ride for English. Only this time, he’s older, wiser, and better.
“I’m ready to make a run at it,” he said. “I feel like my game is in a good spot.”