English continues season of the drought breakers
January 10, 2021
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Harris English wins in a playoff at Sentry
KAPALUA, Hawaii – We should have known Harris English would win the Sentry Tournament of Champions – after all it has been the season of drought-breakers thus far on the PGA TOUR.
English claimed his third TOUR win – but first since the Mayakoba Golf Classic in November of 2013 – in a playoff over Joaquin Niemann at the Plantation Course at Kapalua.
He joins Stewart Cink (11 years), Martin Laird (seven years) and Brian Gay (seven years) as players to break win droughts of over seven years this season. We've also seen Robert Streb win again after a six-year drought.
Even Sergio Garcia and Hudson Swafford gained wins for the first time in over three years, while Carlos Ortiz and Jason Kokrak gained their first TOUR wins after four and nine seasons, respectively.
“It feels amazing. All the hard work that has gone into this, all the highs and lows of golf that it brings over a career and I feel like I've gotten out of my valley and getting back to the tournaments and some of the quality of golf that I know I can play,” English said emotionally. “It feels great to have some validation out there on the golf course.”
It wasn’t long ago English was floundering a little having finished 149th in the 2019 FedExCup race, losing his full card in the process. It came after sneaking in in 125th place in 2018 and being 118th in 2017.
What had gone wrong? Turns out English wasn’t as dedicated to practice as he should have been and was perhaps a victim of searching for things in his game he didn’t need to chase.
“Every week you play with somebody that you might think does this better, does that better, but you are who you are, and you can get better at what you do,” English explained. “That's what I've learned - to not go up-and-down the range saying, I need to be like Dustin or Justin Thomas or Xander Schauffele.
“I need to be the best version of myself and do the things I do well and always work at it. I feel like I've gotten a lot better at doing that and my coach back home has really kept me on track.”
That coach, Justin Parsons, came through elsewhere for English back in 2019 when his career was seemingly sliding backwards after a missed opportunity in the Korn Ferry Tour finals to get his card back. He had just dropped from projecting inside the top 25 who earned cards to outside with loose play down the stretch.
“My coach is kind of a little bit of a sports psychologist as well… keeping me on track,” English admits. “I don't know what happened on the last three or four holes, I just, I didn't do it, and that was very shocking to me…, it hadn't happened a whole lot in my career where I had opportunities like that, and I just let them slip away. So that was tough.
“But I worked with my coach the next week and he was telling me how good I was playing and the opportunities I had coming up and he kind of flipped the script. I could sit there and feel sorry for myself or I could say, Hey, I'm playing really good golf. I know I didn't keep my card, but here are the opportunities I have coming up and I got to seize them.”
Seize them he did. After getting a start in A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier, English finished T3, ensuring a start at the following week’s Sanderson Farms Championship. He finished T6 there and by the end of the fall had further top five finishes at the Houston Open and Mayakoba Golf Classic.
English never fell outside the top 30 of the FedExCup in the COVID-19 affected 2020 season and ultimately finished 12th in the season-long race after a runner up in the opening playoff at THE NORTHERN TRUST. It was getting to East Lake that allowed him back to Kapalua this year as TOUR Championship players were given a one-off exemption thanks to the restricted season.
The Georgia native entered the final round at Kapalua with a share of the lead and was there alone after one hole on Sunday. But an even par front nine stalled his chances as young Niemann scorched up the leaderboard.
Staring another missed opportunity dead in the face, English rallied in tough winds on the back nine, picking up four birdies in a five-hole stretch from 11 to 15. After dropping a shot on the par-4 16th, he came to the infamous downhill, downwind par-5 18th needing a birdie to force extra holes.
Harris English's near heroics at Sentry
He almost didn’t need them. The 31-year-old laced a brilliant 3-iron from 268 yards to just inside 10-feet, setting up an eagle putt to win the tournament. The putt didn’t drop, but a birdie on the first playoff hole was enough after Chile’s first Presidents Cup representative was unable to get up and down from long grass to the left of the green.
Although English missed that first opportunity to close the deal after a great approach, he welcomed the nerves flooding his body. Having won the unofficial QBE Shootout with Matt Kuchar last month he’d gotten a small taste of it all recently to fall back on.
“I knew Joaqo and Justin (Thomas) were making a run and I needed to do something, and I love being in those situations. Even when I was a kid, I loved having the ball when the clock's running out in basketball… and I kind of crave getting back into that. I hadn't had it in a long time,” English said.
“I feel like that (QBE Shootout) kind of got me over the hump of finally getting a win like that and knowing I can do it under the gun. I couldn't have hit it any better than I did coming down the stretch on 18 in regulation. You've got to have confidence in yourself.”
So where to from here? English says there’s no chance he will go down any rabbit holes anymore. But he has the TOUR Championship once again in his sight having raced to second place in the FedExCup. He also is eyeing off a Ryder Cup berth.
“I'm still not satisfied with where I'm at in the game, there's still a lot more that I want to accomplish,” he said. “Hopefully this is just the tip of the iceberg of me getting better and better and hopefully having a chance to win a lot more tournaments.”