I was so taken with DawgOutWest’s Chubb-fest that I decided to pile on.
Let’s start with a recap of last week’s Sentry Tournament of Champions. Hudson Swafford finally got it together with a Sunday 68 and finished 9 under par and T35. Kevin Kisner scored a little better each day and his 14 under par total was nice, but 11 strokes off the lead and only good for T24. Brendon Todd was hanging around, shooting at least 3 under every day but ultimately finished T13 at 17 under par.
Then there was Harris English. English opened with a leading 65, followed that with a 66 and 67, and was tied for the lead every day, including going into the Sunday finale. The winds finally picked up yesterday after 3 days of benign and ideal scoring conditions, and English couldn’t quite continue his good form, shooting even par on the front 9. While others, like Justin Thomas and Joaquin Niemann, were shooting up the leaderboard and overtaking the Valdostan (Valdostonian? Valdostite?).
With his normal even keel, English figured a few things out and made birdies on 11, 12, and 13, then again on 15. A poor approach on #16 led to an untimely bogey and losing the lead again. And a shaky putter on 17 prevented him from converting a good look at birdie. So English is one behind the clubhouse leader as he steps on the par 5 18th tee, needing to get the 668 yards down in 4 shots to force a playoff.
A 370 yard drive down the sloping fairway leaves a fairly flat lie and 268 yards to a front pin tucked just over bunkers and just over a huge crevasse hazard. A little back and forth with his caddy Eric Larson, and English hit the shot of the tournament: a high drawing 3 iron that lands just on the front edge and rolls a mere 10 feet past the pin. Make the putt, and English cards an eagle and wins by a stroke.
Instead, the putt is weak and falls below the hole by a few inches, never seemingly having a chance. But the tap in ties English at 25 under par and a tie with Joaquin Niemann. Free golf folks, as the two players head back to the 18th tee for a sudden death playoff - the first player to win a hole outright wins the tourney.
English hits a solid drive, but about 10 yards shorter than his ball in regulation. Niemann flies English and is a good 30 yards closer. English applied pressure by hitting the same sweeping 3 iron but it lands softly on the front left and stops just short of the putting surface. Niemann, seemingly in an advantageous position, also hits a big draw but it barely clears the hazard and nestles down in the long rough short of the green. His pitch only makes it to the fringe, lying 4. English proceeds to chip and run one about 6 feet past, and calmly sinks the birdie for the win.
This is the 3rd PGA Tour victory for Harris English, and his first since the November 2013 Mayakoba Classic. So his drought is broken, and in a big way. He gets an invite to the 2021 Masters, gets to defend his ToC victory next January, likely moves into the top 20 in the world rankings meaning invites to all the majors and the World Golf Championship events (plus other invitationals), has a two year exemption on the PGA Tour, and cashes a check for $1,340,000. Not bad for a guy who lost his Tour privileges in 2018 and hadn’t won in over 7 years.
Yes, he’s a former Georgia Bulldog. He’s one of 9 with full-time PGA Tour privileges. And this win marks the 33rd victory by a former Bulldog on the PGA Tour since 2010. The next closest program is Coastal Carolina with 22, and all by world #1 Dustin Johnson. Coach Chris Haack back in his Athens office must be feeling really good right about now - no one can come close to his record of developing world-class professional golfers. And with current senior Davis Thompson ranked as the #1 amateur in the world, I’d say this is only going to get better. As always...