Special to the Times-Enterprise
Harris English played his first round of the Masters on Thursday shooting a 2-over 74 on a sunny, cloudless, but challenging day at Augusta National.
With tournament leader Bill Haas at 4-under par that left English six strokes back with some work to do this morning as he will tee off with playing partners Lee Westwood and Russell Henley at 10:41 a.m. for their second round.
Until English stepped on the first tee Thursday, received a warm Georgia ovation, and began his opening front nine, there was really no telling what the nerves would be like for this former Thomasville resident.
“Overall it was an awesome experience, it’s hard to know what this place is going to feel like, know what your nerves are going to do, and then how this place plays,” English said. “You can play as many practice rounds as you want. I’ve played this place probably ten or eleven times but I hadn’t played it like this.”
The pins were tucked much closer to the edges of greens and closer to some of the trouble found at Augusta National such as deep green-side bunkers and severe slopes.
English opened his first nine holes with a 1-over 37 and he felt that his swing was a little “out of sync” and “fast” in that opening stretch.
After make a double bogey on the 155-yard par-three 12th, a hole he aced last Sunday in practice, English stood at three-over par. Thanks to two late birdies on 15 and 17 he was able to right the ship back to one-over before a late bogey on the 18th. Not the ideal finish but English feels he limited the damage of his inconsistent swing on Thursday.
“My chipping and putting really saved me today, I’ve been working really hard on it,” English said. “I knew that at this tournament you’re going to hit it in some bad spots and you’re going to need to chip it and putt it well to stay in the tournament. I could have easily shot 5 or 6 over today.”
English enjoyed playing with former Georgia Bulldog golf teammate Henley for his first-ever tournament round at the Masters.
“It’s very special, I’ve played with Russell ever since I was twelve years old maybe even younger,” English said. “We played a lot of golf together at Georgia. It’s awesome to be able to share my first time playing in the Masters with him and playing with a guy like Lee (Westwood). It was a great group and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Henley also got a kick out of playing in this special tournament with English, with their former college golf coach Chris Haack and other coaches watching their every shot on the course Thursday.
“It didn’t quite like it was real playing Augusta, playing with Harris, playing with our coaches watching hard at us was kind of like a dream,” Henley said. “It was a lot of fun and I wish it was like that every week.”
So how many ‘Go-Dawgs’ chants did this group hear?
“If I had a dollar for every one I’d be a millionaire,” Henley said.