Garrett Johnston’s story on Tony Finau and his grandfather Sione:
By Garrett Johnston
Harris English understands his strengths. It takes time, but the 25-year-old is in a good place with his mental and physical games.
How that translates to the golf course-no less today’s final round-will be vital to whether the Georgia alum can cash in for his third win on Tour.
Twice has English held a 36-hole lead and both times he delivered. First at the FedEx Classic in June 2013 and then at the Mayakoba Classic in late 2013. He held the 36-hole lead at 10-under par on Friday and goes into today’s round with the 54-hole advantage tied with veteran JB Holmes at 9-under par.
What may be English’s greatest strength is his determination and commitment from age 11 to be a presence on the PGA Tour.
“Harris has conditioned his mind to be prepared for the PGA Tour,” English’s junior high coach Bill Connelly said. “Since he started the game as a kid.”
English remembers Connelly taking him the two-hour drive from Thomasville, Georgia to the Players Championship, the PGA Tour’s marquee event, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida during his childhood in Thomasville, Georgia.
“Bill always told me to watch the players and see what they do on the course,” English said. “If you want to be like them you have to watch them.”
Clearly English followed the advice of his old coach and now he will step on a Torrey Pines South course which has been dominated by the likes of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in recent years.
With both stars not able to survive for the weekend, Woods withdrew with injury Thursday and Mickelson missed the cut on Friday, English and Holmes stand atop the leaderboard and will both have the last say come Sunday afternoon on the 72nd hole.
This situation produces pressure and often causes mistakes for many, especially on a hard course like Torrey Pines.
Just last year Gary Woodland held the lead late until he hit his second shot on the 71st hole out of bounds and Scott Stallings took the victory coming from an earlier group.
English has a collected perspective towards today’s round.
“This is what we play for, it’s what I’ve always wanted to do,” English said.
“You’ve got to embrace the heat of a Sunday, it’s a hard course.”
So what’s the right mentality for a tough, unforgiving course where double bogey is a possibility on every hole?
“I’m just going to get out there and work really hard to execute my gameplan-but I’m going to have fun doing it.”
Isn’t golf even more exciting when it’s fun?
That’s the name of the game.
Garrett Johnston’s feature for PGATour.com:
Garrett Johnston’s feature on Frank Nobilo and Golf Channel’s Live events for New Zealand Golf Magazine.
Garrett Johnston’s profile of Graeme McDowell and his winning mentality.
A preview story on two of golf’s hottest players in Kevin Streelman and Brendon Todd.
US Women’s Open Preview for New Zealand Golf Magazine.
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