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Overlooked on the list of top players who registered for the PGA Championship without knowing if they will be at Southern Hills was Harris English.
A two-time winner last year, English reached the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time and made his Ryder Cup debut in September. But he hasn’t played since the Sony Open in January as he recovers from surgery to repair a torn labrum.
He returned from Vail, Colorado, where he had surgery on his right hip.
“They liked where everything was at,” English said from his home in St. Simons Island, Georgia. “It feels like there’s definitely light at the end of the tunnel.”
Team USA’s Harris English hits on the third hole during a practice day at the Ryder Cup at the Whistling Straits Golf Course, Sept. 21, 2021, in Sheboygan, Wis. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
English has been taking long walks with his Cavalier King Charles Spaniel to build up stamina and has started hitting short irons under the watch of Justin Parsons, his swing coach. The plan at this point is to return at the PGA Championship, which runs from May 19-22 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
He’d rather not return at a major, but as English said: “You’ve got to start somewhere. I’ll prepare as much as I can to win.”
Surgery was inevitable.
English said he has had issues with his right hip dating to college at Georgia, which he treated with dry needle. His first year on the PGA Tour, he had it checked in Vail. He said doctors described it as a bone growth on his femur.
“I had (platelet-rich plasma) injections, a band-aid to keep the inflammation down,” English said. “He said there was going to come a time when this stopped working. I knew the day would come when I needed surgery.”
And then he started having back trouble last year. He had to withdraw from The Players Championship after two holes of a practice round when he couldn’t hit a 3-wood much more than 100 yards.
English made it through the major championship season, finishing third at the U.S. Open, winning the Travelers Championship in a playoff and losing a late lead in the FedEx St. Jude Invitational. On a scale of 1 to 10, he said his “normal” pain level was around 5. He was diligent with his trainers to prevent further back pain, which got him through the Ryder Cup.
English played both Hawaii tournaments, was off for three weeks of rest and treatment, and when he returned in Phoenix and went to test equipment at Ping headquarters, his body wouldn’t allow him to hit more than 20 golf balls.
“I was ready to nip it in the bud,” English said.
Surgery was on Valentine’s Day.
“My wife was a trouper. She played nurse for a couple weeks when I couldn’t move that well,” he said. “It sucked to miss the Masters and Match Play and tournaments I really like. But I was looking at the next eight to 10 years of having a chance to compete and win golf tournaments.”
He hopes that starts at Southern Hills, where English plans to be as long as there is no soreness. Otherwise, he’ll wait.
The Country Club will have a slightly new look for the U.S. Open.
The Open returns to Brookline on June 16-19 for the fourth time, but the 140-year-old club outside Boston will have some changes from when Curtis Strange won in 1988.
The USGA said it will play 250 yards longer at 7,264 yards, and it will play to a par 70. It was a par 71 in 1988 and when Julius Boros won in 1963. The Country Club was a par 73 when it first hosted the U.S. Open, won by local amateur Francis Ouimet in 1913.
The course used for major tournaments, including the 1999 Ryder Cup, is a composite of the one played by members and a third nine.
This year’s championship course will add the 11th hole from the main course, a par 3 at 131 yards, and lose No. 4. The 10th hole has been shortened from a 515-yard par 5 to a 499-yard par 4. The 14th, previously 450 yards, is now 619 yards as a par 5.
“The Country Club is an old-school golf course: small greens, very tight fairways,” said Jeff Hall, the USGA’s managing director of rules and open championships. “How is this modern golfer going to adapt, or are they just going to let it rip?”
Another change: The previous three Opens at Brookline have gone to an 18-hole playoff. The USGA now has a two-hole aggregate playoff. That was instituted in 2018. The last U.S. Open playoff was Tiger Woods beating Rocco Mediate in 19 holes at Torrey Pines in 2008. It’s the major that has gone the longest since its last playoff.
CISCO AND APGA
California-based Cisco has expanded its presence in golf with a partnership announced Tuesday with the Advocates Professional Golf Association that will create endorsements for players and bigger purses at two APGA Tour events.
Kevin Hall, Aaron Beverly, Troy Taylor and Olajuwon Ajanaku will join Cisco’s stable of golfers. Cisco already has deals with Nelly and Jessica Korda and Danielle Kang on the LPGA Tour, and PGA Tour players that include Viktor Hovland, Keith Mitchell and Maverick McNealy.
Along with continuing its sponsorship of the Billy Horschel APGA Invitational, which has the largest purse on the APGA Tour at $135,000, Cisco will be the title sponsor of a new APGA event at Baltusrol in August.
“We are proud to expand our commitment to the sport of golf and work together with the APGA towards a shared vision of fostering greater inclusivity,” said Mark Patterson, senior vice president at Cisco.
The APGA began in 2010 to bring greater diversity to golf through playing and other career opportunities. It now has 17 tournaments with more than $800,000 in prize money and bonuses.
Cisco also is supporting a new APGA Junior Series of four tournaments for young men and women from diverse backgrounds.
Bryson DeChambeau is listed in the field for the PGA Championship, even though he is still recovering from April 14 surgery on his left wrist.
He was seen swinging a club one-handed during a charity event in the Bahamas. Now, the former U.S. Open champion is out of a cast and starting to at least hold a club with two hands.
“Can’t hold on to it for long, but getting there,” he said in a Twitter post Friday.
A day later, he posted a video saying doctors have allowed him to at least start chipping. So he could hold onto the club a wee bit longer.
DeChambeau said after the surgery he looked forward to competing within the next two months. The PGA Championship starts May 19.
The LPGA Tour has had 10 players win the opening 10 tournaments on the schedule. A year ago, it took 14 tournaments before there was a multiple winner. … This is the final week before the PGA Championship takes the top 70 from a “PGA Points” list, a money list that began at the Byron Nelson last week. The PGA of America is likely to go beyond 70th place to fill the field at Southern Hills. Among those on the bubble are Joel Dahmen and Russell Knox. … With Jon Rahm winning last week in Mexico, five of the top 10 in the world ranking have not won through the first four months of the year — Collin Morikawa, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Jon Rahm is the fifth player in the last 30 years to have won a PGA Tour event in each of his first six full seasons.
“They take it very seriously because this is their job, how they make their money. Some people don’t really see that. They’re just like, ‘Oh, they’re out here to play golf.’ No. This is how they make their living.” — Anna Davis, 16, on what she learned from her week on the LPGA Tour.