Updated with more information at 10:30 p.m. on Aug. 5, 2021.
MEMPHIS — Harris English shot an 8-under-par 62 on Thursday to match his lowest score on the PGA Tour, and it was good for a two-stroke lead after the first round of the FedEx St. Jude Invitational.
The former Baylor School and University of Georgia golf standout has won two of the four times he has led or shared the lead after the opening round of a PGA Tour event. However, of his four career victories, half have required playoffs to finish them off, including both of his wins this year: a one-hole triumph over Joaquin Niemann at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in early January and an eight-hole grind against Kramer Hickok at the Travelers Championship in late June.
Either way, the 32-year-old English obviously has more work to do to add a fifth win, but even his first round showed some of the toughness that undoubtedly has helped him in playoff golf. He's also happy to be back at TPC Southwind, the site of his first PGA Tour victory eight years ago.
"I just love this place," English said. "From the time I first came here in 2013, it's been one of my favorite places to play."
He birdied the first four holes Thursday, making a 27-foot putt on the par-4 second, and also gained strokes on Nos. 6, 7 and 9 to match the course's front-nine mark of 7-under 28. The 28 also is English's career low for nine holes on tour.
"It was one of those rounds where I was hitting it really good off the tee and making a lot of good putts," said English, who also shot a 62 during the 2013 Sony Open and the 2012 Humana Challenge and had a 60 in a qualifier for the British Open in 2012.
When English won in Memphis in June 2013, the event was known as the FedEx St. Jude Classic. The tournament at TPC Southwind changed names two years ago, and it also took on a new status that gives English another career first to shoot for with this now a World Golf Championship event.
His other PGA Tour solo victory was at the 2013 OHL Classic at Mayakoba, and he has also teamed up with former Georgia Tech standout Matt Kuchar for three wins in the unofficial money event now known as the QBE Shootout.
Ahead by two strokes at the turn, English encountered difficulty to the start the back nine as he made bogeys on Nos. 10 and 12 to fall out of the lead. He recovered on the final few holes, closing with birdies at 15, 16 and 18. He hit his approach on the final hole inside five feet and sank the putt.
"I'm just happy with the way I fought back," said English, who began the tournament fifth in the tour's season-long FedEx Cup standings and is enjoying one of the best stretches of his career with back-to-back top-four finishes in the past two U.S. Opens.
"This is just one of those courses that suits (my) eye," English added. "I feel like it plays the game that I like to play. More strategy, get the ball in the fairway. I love small greens, and these greens don't have a whole lot of humps and bumps in them. They're very flat, and I feel like I can make a lot of putts out here."
His two-stroke lead was over Jim Herman, Carlos Ortiz, Ian Poulter and Matthew Wolff, with 2020 U.S. Open winner Bryson DeChambeau, Marc Leishman and Scottie Scheffler another shot back at 65. DeChambeau returned to competition after missing the Tokyo Olympics because of a positive test for COVID-19.
Ortiz, who did not make a bogey, moved up the leaderboard with birdies at Nos. 15 and 16. Wolff also birdied those holes and said "everything is starting to fall in place" for him.
Herman, seeking the fourth PGA Tour victory of his career, is in contention after a difficult midseason stretch in which he missed eight of 10 cuts. After birdies on 16 and 17, he briefly tied English for the lead at 6 under. Herman's birdie putt on 17 was from 31 feet.
DeChambeau was encouraged by his start. He expressed to reporters Wednesday he didn't expect to be much of a factor this week. That sentiment changed Thursday.
"I'm looking forward to the rest of the weekend," he said. "I feel like I can be there to win on Sunday."
Jon Rahm, who won the U.S. Open in June for his first major championship and returned to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking, is not in the 66-man field, having withdrawn in late July — but the 13 golfers between the 26-year-old Spaniard and English on that list are at TPC Southwind, setting the stage for a battle of big names.
No. 3 Collin Morikawa, who won the British Open last month for his second major title, and No. 5 Justin Thomas, the reigning FedEx St. Jude Invitational champion, were part of the big group tied for 13th at 67. No. 2 Dustin Johnson and No. 4 Xander Schauffele, who won the gold medal in men's golf Sunday at the Tokyo Olympics, were two strokes further back in the pack at 36th.
Flying with eagles
English wasn't the only former Baylor golf standout contending in a PGA Tour event Thursday. Stephan Jaeger, who also starred for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, was second after the opening day of the Barracuda Championship in Truckee, California.
Jaeger was two points behind Joel Dahmen, who scored 16 points with eight birdies in a bogey-free round at Tahoe Mountain Club's Old Greenwood Course. The Barracuda Championship is the only PGA Tour event that uses the modified Stableford scoring system. Players receive eight points for an albatross, five for an eagle, two for a birdie and zero for par. A point is subtracted for a bogey, and three are taken away for a double or worse.
Scott Harrington was third at 13 points, with Emiliano Grillo and Michael Thompson tied for fourth at 12 in the 132-player field.
Jaeger eagled the par-4 eighth and the par-5 12th and had three birdies, including on the final two holes, to offset a pair of bogeys.
"Obviously in this format eagles really catapult you forward, five points," Jaeger said. "One was a three-footer on eight. I hit it on the green and it was pretty short. The other one ... I made like a 25-footer."
A 32-year-old Chattanooga resident from Germany, Jaeger is currently on the second-tier Korn Ferry Tour — where his six career wins are tied for second — but is headed for a second stint on the PGA Tour starting next season.