LORAN SMITH COLUMN: PGA Tour rookie English making most of British Open debut, despite up-and-down first round

Albany Herald Guest Columnist Loran Smith

Albany Herald Guest Columnist Loran Smith

EDITOR’S NOTE: Guest Columnist Loran Smith is in England this week and will be corresponding with daily articles for The Herald at the 141st British Open.

LYTHAM ST. ANNES — Playing in his first British Open, Harris English, the recent Georgia graduate, wasn’t complaining after the opening round, but it would be accurate to say that he was a bit disappointed.

A 1-over 71 in his first major is not cause for anything negative, but a golfer will always be disturbed with failed opportunity.

“It was my driver that cost me,” Harris, a native of Thomasville, said after finishing his round in a light mist late in the afternoon. “Everybody will tell you if you drive the ball well on this course you can score.”

After making 10 straight pars, English bogeyed the par-five 11th hole following a drive that missed the fairway. He then bogeyed the par-4 15th following a poor tee shot. At that point, he rallied with back-to-back birdies on the par four 16th and 17th holes. A wayward drive on No. 18 kept him from finishing even par.

“Position off the tee means everything,” he said. “That has always been the case in golf, but on a course like this, you must make sure you get good position off the tee.”

Before coming over for the championship, Harris was diligent in reviewing Royal Lytham & St. Annes and its nuances with Tour players who have played the course.

“They will all tell you,” he began, “that this is one of the best of the Open courses, but that you have to keep the ball in the fairway to score.”

Harris went to bed Thursday knowing that he was only seven strokes out of the lead, which offers great encouragement if you consider that maintaining that position would likely bring about contending status for the weekend.

With noticeable success for a rookie on the tour, his confidence is a contributing factor to his impressive record. Coming into the Open, he has missed only four cuts in 19 events, and he has won an impressive $845,235 to date.

This is English’s second trip for competition in Great Britain, having played in the 2011 Walker Cup competition at Royal Aberdeen.

“It is so different over here, but I really like the courses and the conditions,” he said.

To use a familiar phrase, English was “fired up” when he qualified to play in the 2012 Open.

His qualifying scores were off the charts when he put together rounds of 60-63 at Gleneagles Golf and Country Club in Dallas. He immediately called his mother and father, Ben and Martha, and told them to pack their bags for the 141st playing of golf’s oldest championship.

“This is so much fun,” he said after signing his scorecard. “I couldn’t be more excited than I am right now. To get off to a good start in my first major is something that makes me very pleased and grateful.”

Nobody has to remind him that to enjoy the rest of the trip here, all he has to do is keep his driver in play.