Travelers further proof Baylor alum Harris English returning to form

The 2021 Travelers Championship will be forever memorable for Harris English on multiple fronts.

There was the marathon drama of an eight-hole playoff victory over Kramer Hickok, and the second triumph of last season all but punched English's ticket to a coveted spot on what became a historically dominant United States Ryder Cup Team.

This past weekend's Travelers was also a success for the former Baylor School and University of Georgia standout, albeit on a more modest and realistic scale.

English is on the road to recovery following hip labrum surgery that sidelined him from mid January until earlier this month, and his tying for 19th at the Travelers marked the first top-20 result of his shortened season. The 32-year-old opened with a 66 and a 65 to get to 9-under through two rounds, which had him in a tie for second, before he finished with a 69 and a 71.

"The hip is doing better," English said in a news conference. "The toughest thing is walking and playing. Back home, I can go hit a bunch of balls on the range, but up and down these hills and being on your feet for five or six hours is the toughest part.

"It's getting better and better, and I feel like the more I play competitive rounds out here, it's just going to get stronger. I am just excited to keep playing golf."

The recent Travelers also yielded Keith Mitchell's tie for sixth and Luke List tying with English, marking the first time three Baylor School alums earned top-20 finishes in the same event. List jumped from 27th to 24th in the FedEx Cup standings, while Mitchell advanced from 37th to 32nd, but the 42 points earned by English gives him just 79 in this unique and challenging year for a ranking of 196th.

A LOFTY TRIO

Of the top 60 players in this week’s World Golf Rankings, three are Baylor School alums — Harris English (30th), Keith Mitchell (54th) and Luke List (60th).

English, who began this calendar year an eye-popping 13th in the world, is currently 30th in those rankings.

"I've basically had like a bone spur for a long time - at least 10 years - and I had just been Band-Aiding it with shots and injections and rehab," English explained. "It just got to a point where it wasn't getting better. I was pretty much waking up every day not knowing if it was going to feel good that day or bad, so it was just a struggle.

"I got the surgery in Vail, Colorado, at the Steadman Clinic, and I stayed out there for about three weeks doing rehab twice a day."

Though he would have loved to immediately build on a season that contained victories at the Travelers and the Sentry Tournament of Champions, eight top-10 finishes and $6.2 million in earnings, English said he decided on surgery with his eyes further down the fairway.

"I want to be playing out here for a long time," he said, "and I just didn't want to be playing hurt. It's tough to compete at 100% out here, and there are a lot of good players and young guys coming up.

"I had two wins last year, so I've got some status for the next few years, and I figured I might as well get surgery and get it behind me so I can get after it these next few years."

After having to pass on the Masters and the PGA Championship, English made his return earlier this month at the Memorial but went 77-77 and quickly missed the cut. He made the cut at the U.S. Open by shooting 73 and 69 in the first two rounds before struggling to a 78 and a 77, winding up 61st out of the 64 who advanced past Friday.

The Travelers posed a familiar environment for which English could continue to improve, and the results wound up speaking for themselves.

"I've had some really good rounds here, and obviously winning last year is a huge boost when you step on the property," he said. "You've done it before, and you know what to do around this place. I feel like the putter heated up this week. That was the strength of my game last year.

"I made a lot of long putts, and it makes the game a lot easier when you do that."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com.