JERSEY CITY, N.J. — It would be easy for Harris English to get discouraged after a tough back nine at TPC Southwind cost him the chance for his third victory this season in the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational. However, English seemed to pick up right where he left off at Liberty National after a week off.
English’s opening round of 2-under 69 at The Northern Trust didn’t look so good compared to the 63 that Jon Rahm fired in his group, but anything under par was a solid score Thursday.
“This course pretty hard with no wind, but knowing that from start to finish, it was pumping, affecting putts, everything,” English said. “Some of those holes are you just got to step up and hit a really good shot. It's a tough driving course anyway, but throw in this wind and it was it was tough.”
English said the week off last week helped him get back in it mentally, knowing how grueling the playoffs would be.
“I know when this is what matters most. You’ve got all the best players here. They're all playing on an extremely high level,” English said. “And I know for me to compete, I've got to be at my best mentally and physically.”
English’s success this season -- he has two wins and has already secured a spot in the season-ending Tour Championship -- has changed his expectations heading into the postseason.
“Two years ago, I was playing the Korn Ferry Tour finals of this time of year. Now I'm playing in Northern Trust with the spot locked up in the Tour Championship,” English said. “It's definitely changed but I expect the best of myself no matter where I'm playing. And that's what it all is about is for me competing at the highest level and to be competitive at every golf tournament.”
Fellow Georgia Bulldog Russell Henley looked in control at last week’s Wyndham Championship. He had a three-shot lead through nine holes in the final round and looked like he would become the PGA Tour’s first wire-to-wire winner this season, but he ultimately faltered in stunning fashion.
However, Henley’s good form has made the trip to Liberty National early on, as a solid two-under 69 in windy conditions has him in contention through 18 holes. Henley didn’t let his finish cloud his judgement on all four days, maintaining that he played well all week, even on Sunday.
“It's still tough to swallow. But I'm just thankful to put myself in that position,” Henley said. “I feel like I hit it well on Sunday, except for a couple shots. I was happy with the whole round, it just didn't go my way.”
But things unraveled quickly for Henley on the back nine. He missed a two-foot par putt at the 11th, made another bogey on No. 12 and a third at No. 14. To his credit, he didn’t fold and still had a chance on the final four holes. He got one back with a birdie at No. 15 and came to the 18th hole with a chance to win outright with a birdie or join the playoff with a par.
Henley’s approach settled just behind the green, and then his birdie putt trickled 4 feet past. Another brutal lip out ended his chances.
Henley’s game has been trending in the right direction all year: He has five top-10 finishes, a pair of top-three finishes and had the 54-hole lead at the US Open. All that’s left for Henley is to get his first win since the 2017 Houston Open.
Henley stressed that he needs to keep a short memory and not let the frustrating finish carry over as the FedEx Cup playoffs begin. Henley’s confidence remains high, and he isn’t letting up.
“I feel more confident now in my game than ever have over the last year or so,” Henley said. “I'm just I'm just trying to keep the pedal down. I need to keep attacking out here and you have to play great to get anything out of it. I'm just trying to just keep focusing on hitting great shots.”