English defends Mayakoba title

Harris English has shown signs that he might be a mega star on the PGA Tour, but it hasn’t quite happened yet.

English, one of several former University of Georgia standouts who are doing well on the circuit, defends histitle this week in the OHL Mayakoba Classic at the El Camaleon Golf Club in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

When he won the tournament a year ago after capturing the FedEx St. Jude Classic earlier in the year, golf pundits figured the floodgates might fly wide open.

Although he played well at times, English has not won an individual title since, but the expectations have not gone away.

“Harris English is going to be ‘The Man’ in American golf, if you can’t tell yet,” veteran Bob Estes wrote on Twitter. “Just give him a little more time.”

English finished in the top 10 on seven occasions during the 2013-14 season, but missed the cut in four of his last six outings, including the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool and the PGA Championship at Valhalla.

In the early weeks of the new wrap-around season, he has missed the cut in the Frys.com Open and the McGladrey Classic, played near his home in Sea Island, Ga., but he tied for 16th in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, closing with 68-66-67.

“I’ve felt good about my game for a long time,” said English, who also teamed with Matt Kuchar to win the Franklin Templeton Shootout by a record seven strokes last December and will defend that title next month in Naples, Fla. “It’s been really close.

“Hadn’t played well as of lately, but it’s good to get … the juices going again. I’ve had a good year, but hadn’t played my best as of late, but I feel like my game has been close.

“It’s just been a little off, and I realize that’s just golf.”

Harris made his first trip to the Mayakoba a year ago and couldn’t wait to get back to the Yucatan Peninsula.

Not only did he enjoy the course, but also the warm weather as the temperatures began to drop in the United States.

“It’s awesome,” said English, who posted four scores in the 60s, including a 9-under-par 62 in the second round. “My first time at Mayakoba. It’s such a great tournament. Had a great time … stayed down in Playa. Had some great beach time.

“Had some good golf course time. Obviously, it worked out in my favor.”

English also got a good grasp on what it means for Mexico to have its own full-field PGA Tour event.

The Mayakoba Classic is the seventh and final event of the early portion of the 2014-15 season, with the PGA Tour taking a break until the Hyundai Tournament of Champions at Kapalua in January.

“It’s awesome to see Mexico kind of wrap around this tournament and for it become the country’s tournament,” said English, who showed his mettle when he knocked off World No. 1 Rory McIlroy on the 19th hole early this year in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

“It’s really cool. A lot of people came. It was awesome to see everybody out there and really enjoying golf. That’s what this is all about, is for the people of Cancun and Playa and all the surrounding towns to see the PGA Tour and get acclimated to all the golfers out here. So it was really cool.”

Even though English put up some pretty gaudy numbers in the tournament last year, he claims the El Camaleon course is no walk in the park.

The wind can make things a little tricky.

“It’s actually a pretty difficult golf course,” said English, who in 2011 became only the third amateur to win on what is now the Web.com Tour.  “Especially with the wind, it makes this course really difficult.

“You got to hit a lot of straight tee shots, and when you have a lot of crosswinds, it makes it really different. You’ve got to flight the ball really well.

“I kind of went back to my shots from the British Open because you’ve got to keep ’em low and hit ’em really solid, and not really hit full shots. You got to grip down and really control your ball flight and control your spin.”

And obviously, he applied exactly the right amount of English.

–Story courtesy of The Sports Xchange, TSX Editor Tom LaMarre

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