CROMWELL, Conn. – Harris English hasn’t made a PGA Tour start since January due to continued hip problems that included surgery in February, but he hopes to return for the New England Daily Double in June.
While answering questions during a virtual appearance at the Travelers Championship Media Day at TPC River Highlands on Tuesday May 3, English said his intentions are to be back on the PGA Tour for the U.S. Open on June 16-19 at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., and then defend in the biggest sporting event in Connecticut the following week. He also hasn’t ruled out playing in the PGA Championship on May 19-22 at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla.
“I’d been battling a torn labrum in my hip for about 10 years since my days at the University Georgia,” said English, who officially committed to his title defense. “Injections stopped working, physical therapy stopped working and it kept getting worse and worse. Some days I wondered how I was going to make it through 18 holes, so I finally figured it was time to get it fixed surgically and strengthen around the hip and take the pressure off. Now I need to get my golf stamina up and feel confident that I’ll be able to play in the U.S. Open and Travelers.”
English, 32, is the Travelers Championship defending champion thanks to sinking a dramatic 16-foot birdie putt defeated Kramer Hickok on the eighth playoff hole that ended the longest playoff in the tournament’s 70-year history and tied the second longest in PGA Tour history. It was what turned out to be the lucky 13th time that English played the 444-yard, par-4 18th hole, including seven during the historic playoff with Hickok.
“I played the hole so many times that I feel like it you gave me a 10-footer on that hole that I’ll probably make the putt,” English said. “The playoff actually got easier the more and more we went on. All I was thinking about was the next shot, so it really helps settle your focus down to what you are doing next. There was some pressure on the first (playoff) hole, then it got to be fun as we each gave it everything we had. It was like a one-on-one boxing match, which is why I enjoy match play. And the atmosphere and energy the fans were bringing was incredible. They stayed out there for all eight holes and were ready to keep going if we were going to a ninth hole.”
It wasn’t just fun for English and the fans, whose volume sounded far more than 10 times the supposed 10,000 limit because of lingering COVID-19 restrictions.
“I had a few friends and family watching the telecast tell me they had a few more cocktails,” English said with a wry smile.
English’s decisive putt came after he and Hickok made 15 consecutive pars of countless varieties and gave English his fourth career victory after going winless for seven years. He earned $1,332,000 and was suddenly ranked 12th in the world after being 373rd in early September 2019. The victory also helped English become a pick of U.S. Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker, and he split two team matches and lost 1-down to Lee Westwood in singles as the Americans routed Europe 19-9, the largest margin of victory in the biennial competition.
“The Ryder Cup was really amazing,” English said. “You play so hard as you can for the country and then party with all the guys we know on the European team. It shows just what a fraternity that golf is.”
But English also has some fond memories of the Travelers Championship, even beyond the final two hours that ended in gathering darkness at 8:09 a.m. on what thankfully the longest day of the year.
“Every time I see a clip from the Travelers Championship in 2021, a huge smile comes to my face,” English said. “Kramer and I had a great battle and the great fans in Connecticut provided an unforgettable atmosphere. I’m excited to get back and help put on a great show that the community and Travelers deserve.
“And anytime I can get my name on a trophy with Arnold Palmer on it is awesome and really good,” English added, referring to “The King” winning the then-Insurance City Open at Wethersfield Country Club in 1956 and 1960.
English hasn’t played on the PGA Tour since he tied for 55th in the Sony Open in Hawaii in January and then had surgery on his right surgery on Feb. 14. Since then, he has been rehabbing twice a day at his home in Sea Island, Ga., after celebrating his alma mater winning the national football championship. He also drove three hours from his home to Augusta National Golf Club to watch the third round of the Masters.
As usual, Andy Bessette, Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer at Travelers, made a special gift to the defending champion, and this time it was a Georgia football helmet signed by Bulldogs quarterback Stetson Bennett, the most valuable player in the national championship game. Bessette “won” the helmet during an auction at a dinner at the Masters.
“I don’t have anything from the Bulldogs winning the title, so that’s so cool,” English said. “Thanks so much.”
“I guess we’ll have to call you ‘Harris the English Bulldog,’ “ Bessette said, eliciting a chuckle from the assembled media.
Tournament director Nathan Grube called English “a wonderful champion” and that he certainly hopes is ready and able to play June 23-26.
English shot a final-round, 5-under-par 65 last year, including a 22-foot birdie putt at the 18th hole. Hickok made an 8-foot birdie putt at the final hole to get into a playoff a 13-under 267 and set in motion the historic playoff. English won his eighth Travelers Championship appearance, his best previous finish at tie for seventh in 2014. Due to his hip issues, English has fallen to 24th in the Official World Golf Rankings.
“We watched Harris make history, and we’ve been fortunate and very proud to have him as our champion,” Bessette said. “We won’t soon forget that dramatic day, with clutch putts made by both players before Harris ultimately came out on top.”
English joins a star-studded field that already included No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, whose four victories this year include the Masters; No. 4 Patrick Cantlay, the PGA Tour Player of the FedExCup winner in 2021; No. 7 Rory McIlroy, who finished second in the Masters; No. 8 Justin Thomas; No. 10 Dustin Johnson, the 2020 Travelers champion; No. 12 Xander Schauffele, the Olympic gold medalist; No. 16 Joaquin Niemann; No. 17 Brooks Koepka; No. 20 Abraham Ancer; No. 28 Will Zalatoris, who has finished second and fifth in the past two Masters; and fan favorite and major tournament supporter Bubba Watson, who will try to tie Hall of Famer Billy Casper for most tournament titles (four).
Tickets are currently on sale at TravelersChampionship.com. Gates will be open to all spectators starting June 22 for the Celebrity Pro-Am, with the tournament beginning the next day. To purchase tickets and for tournament updates, visit TravelersChampionship.com.
The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in Ashford, a residential summer camp and year-round center serving children and their families coping with cancer and other serious illnesses and conditions, is the major beneficiary of the tournament, which raised a record $2.2 million for 125 charities last year. During the Media Day, Zaire Rariz, 15, a freshman at the Kingswood Oxford School in West Hartford, received a rousing response for his talk about how the camp has helped in his battle with sickle cell anemia.
“I’m so thankful and appreciative for what the Travelers Championship and for what the camp does for me and so many other people,” Rariz said.