You could say Harris English introduced himself to the golf world from Memphis. Keyed by three birdies and an eagle over the first five holes of the second round, English marched to his first PGA Tour victory at the 2013 FedEx St. Jude Classic. The former Georgia Bulldog broke par in all four rounds to edge Phil Mickelson for the $1.026 million winner’s check. English returns to Memphis this week, another Tour win under his belt (the OHL Classic at Mayakoba last November) and having climbed to eighth in the FedExCup standings.
As we near the anniversary of your first win on the Tour, what stands out from last year’s FESJC?
That was kind of my breakout on the PGA Tour. I’ve got a lot of good memories. I had a lot of high school friends who came out to cheer me on, and the city of Memphis has been a huge help since then, taking me under their wing. It’s such an awesome city and such an awesome tournament. I’m excited about getting back, defending my title, and seeing all the people who helped me get there.
At what point in the tournament did you feel like you had a decent chance to win?
I was playing in the last group on Saturday [as a leader], so I knew I’d put myself in a pretty good position after 36 holes. I felt like I was playing well all week. I feel like any time I’m putting well, I have a good chance. And I was feeling good with the putter. I came out Sunday one shot behind, and that was pretty comfortable for me, knowing I had to stay aggressive.
Among the holes on the TPC Southwind course, which stand out in your memory?
I had a few hiccups on 8 and 9 [in the fourth round]. I three-putted 9 from the front of the green for bogey, and I was pretty upset with myself. But my caddie said, ‘Look, we’ve got nine holes to go. We’re not out of this.’ Making that [birdie] putt on 17 was so huge. Having a two-shot lead going to 18 was so much better. Made my decision to hit a five-wood down the center of the fairway a lot easier.
Southwind is one of the best TPC courses we play all year. I really like the back nine, especially the stretch from 14 to 18. The 15th is one of my favorite par-4s; you have to be so accurate off the tee.
You had an interesting final round, with six birdies and five bogeys.
I didn’t let the bogeys affect me. And that’s tough in the final round; a lot more pressure. I feel like I did a good job not letting the bogeys get in my head and change my game plan. I stayed aggressive. I didn’t do anything stupid, but I didn’t play safe either. I played for the win.
What element of your game are you working on most these days?
I’m always working on my short game, from 100 yards in. I feel like I’ve been struggling with this the last couple of months. You can never be good enough [with your short game]. It’s an area where I can really set myself apart.
And what’s a strength in your game today?
I feel comfortable with my irons. I hit a lot of greens in regulation, to give myself chances at birdies.
You grew up a fan of Davis Love III and Fred Couples. What drew you to them in particular?
I grew up taking lessons at Sea Island [in Georgia]. I’d see Davis practicing there, and I always idolized his game, and the way he carried himself on the golf course. Freddie was the same. You didn’t really know if they were playing well or not. That’s what my mom taught me, and I tried to emulate them. I get just as mad inside as everyone else, but I try not to show it.
Playing the Masters for the first time had to be special, particularly being a Georgia native.
It was an awesome experience. I played there five or six times before I turned pro. I obviously didn’t play as well as I wanted to [English missed the cut], but I’m looking forward to getting back next year and giving it another shot.
You’ve stepped forward to help raise funds for St. Jude. What are your impressions of the hospital and its connection with the local tournament?
I took a tour of St. Jude for the first time a couple of months ago and was amazed at how well-run the organization is. It’s such a happy place. It’s so fulfilling, being on the PGA Tour and being able to give back, to help the kids who are really struggling. I’m doing something I love, and those kids need our help. It gives golf fans something extra to pull for.