Low-key Harris English gets loud at Tour Championship, delivers roaring outburst to remain in contention at FedEx Cup finale

·4 min read

ATLANTA – Harris English was going nowhere fast.

Then he shot up the leaderboard.

English, one of the most gentle souls on the PGA Tour, who’s volume meter rarely goes past low, made plenty of noise coming down the stretch in Thursday’s first round of the Tour Championship as he made a hole-in-one on the 15th and then birdied the 16th and 17th to shoot 66.

The first ace on the 15th at East Lake Golf Club in tournament history – he said he smoked a 5-iron from 225 yards – moved English to 8 under and five shots out of the lead. Before stepping to the tee at the 15th, he was eight shots back.

“I don’t know how loud I got,” English said. “I kind of blacked out there for 15 seconds. I know my caddie was pumped. He’s a big wine guy and I know he’s not going to forget about that one. I’m probably going to have to probably buy him wine. That’s how it’s going to be.”

In the season-ending, FedEx Cup Playoffs finale with $15 million awaiting the winner, Patrick Cantlay, who began the tournament with a two-shot lead due to the staggered scoring format, remained two clear of the field with a 3-under-par 67 to move to 13 under. Jon Rahm picked up two shots with his 65 and is at 11 under.

English was joined at 8 under by Bryson DeChambeau, who shot 69 and kept up his good play; last week, his 27 under total in regulation was the lowest in PGA Tour history for someone who did not win.

Viktor Hovland (66), Cameron Smith (68) and 2017 FedEx Cup champion Justin Thomas (67) are at 7 under.

Defending FedEx Cup champion Dustin Johnson (68) is in a group at 5 under.

“Being in the spot that I’m in, it would be easy to get ahead of yourself and easy to maybe stray from your game plan because you feel like you’re ahead, and that’s just not helpful,” said Cantlay, who set putting records in beating DeChambeau in a 6-hole playoff last week in the BMW Championship. “So I’m not going to do that. I’m going to stay present and I’m going to stick to my game plan and I’m going to take what the golf course gives me.

“I rolled it really well today. I didn’t make any of the long putts like I made last week, but I hit a bunch of good putts. I hit a bunch of putts with the right speed and I think if I putt again like I did today, some more putts might fall.”

Rahm and Billy Horschel each shot 65, the lowest rounds of the day.

“It’s very easy to get caught up on how far back you start,” said Rahm, the reigning U.S. Open champion who began the day four shots out of the lead. “I don’t think I really once thought about it out there. I was just trying to post a score. My job is to hit the best shot I can each time and that’s all can I control.

“I can’t be thinking of what the people ahead of me are doing. And I think that applies to tomorrow as well. Maybe on the weekend you think about who is leading, who is not, but try to think about it as a regular event and not how much distance I got to make up.

“Obviously, 72 holes, it’s a lot of holes and four shots is not that much.”

English may have been thinking eight shots was too much, which was his deficit walking off the 14th green. But the even-keeled English didn’t panic.

“I had been hitting it really good and not making a whole lot,” he said. “Had a lot of good chances and, I mean, you don’t think you’re going to step up to 15 and make a 1. I mean, you’re trying to make par there. It was just one of those days where I was really close to taking it deep and just couldn’t get it going.”

Then he got it going, following his ace with birdies from 6 feet on 16 and from 10 feet on 17. His 12-footer for birdie on the par-5 18th burned the edge.

“I’m still chasing the lead, still got to play aggressive,” said English, who won the Sentry Tournament of Champions and the Travelers Championship earlier this year. “I feel like I’m playing good golf, I really like this golf course, I feel like my strategy worked today.

“You just got to keep hitting fairways, because this rough is pretty brutal.”