Part of what hurt Harris English was his penchant for looking around the range and seeing players who hit the driver better than him — or looking around the putting green and seeing all those strokes that were purer than his.
On Saturday at the U.S. Open, most of those guys will be looking up at him.
English shot an even-par 70 on Friday at Winged Foot to enter the weekend at 2-under 138, two shots behind leader Patrick Reed.
“I feel like I got off to a really good start, had a couple birdies early on and kind of hunkered down and grinded on the way back,” he said.
His career has taken a similar trajectory.
He burst onto the scene with a win on the Korn Ferry Tour while still at the University of Georgia in 2011, then got his PGA Tour card and won twice there in 2013.
But success became more elusive, in large part because he sought perfection — victimized by looking at everyone else’s swings and games and wondering what he could do better.
English lost his full status last year, which made the 2019-20 season a wait-and-see proposition. After missing out on his card at the Korn Ferry Tour championship last year, he ended up with conditional status on the PGA Tour, which he parlayed into five top-10 finishes.
Now, he’s contending in a major.
“It wasn’t really about reinventing my game, it was about what I did that kind of separated myself, or what I did well that was the way I swung the club, and looking at a lot of old videos and getting back to the fundamentals,” English said. “I had kind of lost that.”
A place like Winged Foot puts the concept of “perfect” in perspective. There is no such thing, especially with the breeze blowing and the course not yielding many low scores. English closed the day as one of only six players under par.
“You knew it was going to be a battle,” he said. “You knew you were going to hit some good shots that ended up in bad places. You’re going to make some bogeys out there and you have to take them and keep fighting.”
He made two — the first of which came after he pulled the wrong club from the middle of the fairway on No. 14, and the breeze kept his approach shot from reaching the green.
He also made two birdies, including on the 213-yard par-3 13th after hitting his tee shot to 12 feet.
English hasn’t finished better than 15th over his 16 previous appearances in the majors. But he is a different player than he was last year, or even in 2013, when he looked like one of the top up-and-comers in a game full of them.
Now, at the young age of 31, he is on an unlikely career comeback. Earlier this month, he was one of 30 to tee it up at the Tour Championship. On Saturday, he’ll have a late starting time in the U.S. Open.
“I don’t feel like I’m done yet,” he said. “We’ve still got 36 holes to play. I am just looking forward to the challenge. I love playing U.S. Opens … and I feel like I’m ready to give myself a chance to win coming down Sunday.”