Thomasville Times Enterprise

February 1, 2014

English maintains under-par streak

Garrett Johnston

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Harris English continued his streak of 19 straight PGA Tour rounds under par on Friday at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. He shot a 4 under 67 at TPC Scottsdale on a breezy day in the desert to back up an opening 65 Thursday and sits at 10 under, two shots behind leaders Bubba Watson and Matt Jones.

The Scottsdale course is known for its large crowds and boisterous fans. Nowhere is that more apparent than on the signature 16th par 3 Stadium hole.

On Thursday, English birdied the island green par 5 15th to take sole possession of the lead at 8 under. He stood on the 16th tee minutes later and hit his iron shot right through the green as it took a hard bounce. The crowd booed as it often does at mistakes and English surrendered the solo lead with a bogey after failing to get up and in from off the green.

English finished Thursday one behind leaders Watson and Y.E. Yang.

The 24-year-old is confident and relishes the opportunity ahead this weekend.

“I’d love to be in contention coming down the stretch and see what happens on those finishing holes,” English said.

He’s been very aggressive on 15, 17, and 18 thus far this week. Birdies on 15 both days, he drove the green past the hole at 17 on Friday and two-putted for birdie, and on 18 he has drilled his driver assertively both days accurately avoiding the lake to the left and the fairway bunkers right.

“That hole really sets up well for me,” English said of 18. “This is my third year here so I’ve gotten pretty used to this golf course so it sets up well.”

Battling the wind throughout Friday morning and early afternoon was a significant challenge for English and his playing partners Brandt Snedeker and Lee Westwood.

“It’s tough desert golf. You don’t really play with wind that much, especially this golf course,” English said. “In three years here, I haven’t played in wind like this. It was tough, a little different lines off the tee, and you got to hit some really good shots and, if you miss it, you’re probable going to be in the desert.”

But fear of the miss is not a part of this stellar young star’s mentality at the moment. He is playing some of the best golf in his PGA Tour career.

So does he enjoy swinging aggressively and free?

“I do. That’s what makes it fun,” English said. “If you don’t feel like you can pull off those shots, then you really shouldn’t be out here. That’s what you practice and play for, to see a shot and do it. If you don’t pull it off, so be it. But at least you tried and gave it 100 percent effort.”

His effort is showing in the numbers, but also as he joins the players he grew up watching. They are now peers in the ranks for this former Thomasville resident.

“I’m getting more and more comfortable playing with guys like Lee Westwood and Brandt Snedeker, guys I idolized growing up. Yet here I am, playing right next to them and competing with them.”

As a rookie in 2012, his tie for 15th finish at this event proved to be the biggest check of his career at $100,650 until mid April at the RBC Heritage.

English has learned much since those days.

He said, “My rookie year, I knew I could play out here, but I didn’t really know and I wasn’t very comfortable on the weekends with all the crowds and cameras — and it’s just getting more and more comfortable and zoned in and knowing the player I am.”

English’s brother Bowen, 28, is at the event for the second straight year. He sees a vast change in Harris’ confidence since his debut here.

“Obviously, the confidence is a funny thing. He’s got it now and he knows how to compete week in and week out, and it’s doing a lot for him,” Bowen said