Harris English finished 12th in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings earlier this month, wrapping up a 2019-20 season in which he had official tournament winnings of more than $3.2 million.
However, the Baylor School graduate has endured his share of challenges on the golf course as well, and some of his frustration stemmed from a penchant for looking around the practice range and seeing players who hit the driver better than him — or looking around the putting green and seeing all those strokes that were purer than his.
In the third round of the U.S. Open, most of those guys will be looking up at him.
English shot a par round of 70 on Friday at Winged Foot Golf Club to enter the weekend at 2-under-par 138, two shots behind leader Patrick Reed, who also shot a 70. Bryson Dechambeau (68) was second, with English tied for third with first-round leader Justin Thomas (73) and Spain's Rafa Cabrera Bello (70).
Stephan Jaeger, a Baylor School graduate who also starred for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, was tied for 12th at 1 over after a 70 in which had as many birdies (five) as he did bogeys.
"I feel like I got off to a really good start, had a couple birdies early on and kind of hunkered down and grinded on the way back," said English, who was a four-time All-American for the Georgia Bulldogs.
His career has taken a similar trajectory. He burst onto the scene with a win on the PGA Tour's developmental circuit — what is now the Korn Ferry Tour was known as the Nationwide Tour at the time — while still at the University of Georgia in 2011, then got his card for the top tour and won twice in the span of five months in 2013.
Success became more elusive after that, though, in large part because he sought perfection — victimized by looking at everyone else's swings and games and wondering what he could do better.
English lost his full status last year, which made the 2019-20 season a wait-and-see proposition. After missing out on his card at the Korn Ferry Tour Championship last year, he ended up with conditional status on the PGA Tour, which he parlayed into five top-10 finishes. That included a second-place showing in The Northern Trust at TPC Boston, the playoff opener in which top-ranked Dustin Johnson ran away from the field on Sunday for an 11-stroke win at 30 under.
And now English is contending at the U.S. Open.
His best finish in a major was a tie for 15th at the 2013 British Open, and his only other top-20 result in one of golf's biggest four events was a tie for 19th at the PGA Championship last month. He has played the Masters twice — missing the cut six years ago and sharing 42nd place in 2016 — and while the U.S. Open is the only major in which he has made the cut in each appearance, his tie for 37th in 2016 at Pennsylvania's Oakmont Country Club is his best result so far at the United States Golf Association's big show.
"It wasn't really about reinventing my game, it was about what I did that kind of separated myself, or what I did well that was the way I swung the club, and looking at a lot of old videos and getting back to the fundamentals," said English, who is making his 17th appearance in a major. "I had kind of lost that."
A place like Winged Foot puts the concept of "perfect" in perspective. There is no such thing on its challenging West Course, especially with the breeze blowing and the course not yielding many low scores. English closed Friday's second round as one of only six players under par, with Jason Kokrak (71) alone in sixth at 1 under.
"You knew it was going to be a battle," English said. "You knew you were going to hit some good shots that ended up in bad places. You're going to make some bogeys out there and you have to take them and keep fighting."
He made two — the first of which came after he pulled the wrong club from the middle of the fairway on No. 14 and the breeze kept his approach shot from reaching the green. He also made two birdies, including on the 213-yard par-3 13th after hitting his tee shot to 12 feet from the cup.
English is a different player than he was last year, or even in 2013, when he looked like one of the rising talents in a sport full of them.
At the young age of 31, he is on an unlikely career comeback trail. Earlier this month, he was one of 30 players to tee it up at the Tour Championship. Now he'll have a late starting time on the weekend at the U.S. Open.
"I don't feel like I'm done yet," he said. "We've still got 36 holes to play. I am just looking forward to the challenge. I love playing U.S. Opens and I feel like I'm ready to give myself a chance to win coming down Sunday."