Thomasville Times Enterprise

February 1, 2014

English returns to third place after sharing brief lead

Garrett Johnston

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — One of the loudest and most rambunctious days in golf transpired Saturday during the Waste Management Phoenix Open at the TPC Scottsdale. Nearly 190,000 fans attended othe event’s third round.

A crowd favorite and part-time resident Bubba Watson, a former Georgia Bulldog, maintained the lead with a 3-under 68 to amass a 15-under total through the first three days, good for a two-shot lead over Kevin Stadler.

Lurking three strokes behind is another former Bulldog, Harris English, who on Saturday tied Watson for the lead on the par 5 third. With a 15-foot eagle putt, English seized the unique moment but ultimately settled for a 2-under 69 and a tie for third place at 12 under. He is tied with Japanese star Hideki Matsuyama and Ryan Moore.

“I hit a really good drive off the tee and had a nice high-cut five iron in there, the perfect distance for me, and it was probably the longest putt I made all week,” English said. “It was really good to see that one go in and kind of get off to a good start.”

A good start is what English will need today, especially on this current chessboard.

“If I keep making birdies and doing the things I’ve been doing, I think I should be fine coming down the stretch,” English said.

Indeed a game-plan as the chaser is certainly to be implemented in this situation.

“Being three back, there’s only one way to go and that’s forward,” English’s caddie, Brian  Smith, said. “It takes a little heat off you not having the lead. It puts you in a frame of mind of, ‘We’ve got to make birdies,’ bottom line, especially on the back nine. There’s plenty of birdies out there.”

Birdies will be central in a tournament whose 2013 winner, Phil Mickelson, finished at 28 under. This season doesn’t figure to be that low of a score, but English knows what’s ahead of him.

“You’ve just got to be confident in yourself,” English said. “You’ve got to want to be in these situations to really grab them.”

Smith has been working with English since last May and he sees a young player ready to seize the moment.

“There’s no fear (in Harris) he’s not afraid of anything, so it’s an opportunity,” Smith said.

The biggest addition to English’s arsenal since Smith joined him in the latter’s mind is confidence.

“I just think he has confidence compared to then,” Smith said. “He knows he can do it, he’s done it twice, he knows what it takes to do it so that gives him a big advantage compared to eight months ago when he hadn’t won before.”

As English continued his stretch of consecutive rounds under par with his 20th on Saturday, he made it clear that he isn’t interested in the numbers.

“I’m not really thinking abut that when I’m on the golf course, I’ve played some really good golf the past couple months and I feel really good about my game,” English said. “I feel like every aspect of my game is good right now and it’s a product of a lot of practice and hard work.”

A favorite word of English to describe his PGA Tour progression of late is “comfortable.”

So what does that mean for this talented 24 year old?

“It’s hard to describe. You just like your surroundings and feel like you belong and I think that’s what it comes down to,” English said.