Harris English, an American in only his second season on the US PGA Tour, matched his low round of the year with a six-under-par 64 on Friday to seize a two-stroke lead at the St Jude Classic. English, whose other 64 came in the first round at last month’s Byron Nelson Championship, stood on 10-under 130 for 36 holes with compatriot Shawn Stefani second on 132 after a firing a second-round 65.
“I’m still getting comfortable out here, just trying to get in the hunt of a golf tournament every time,” English said.
English, seeking his first PGA triumph, opened with three birdies in a row and holed out from 175 yards in the fairway for an eagle at the par-4 fifth.
“I was playing a little short of it because that green goes front to back pretty good,” English said. “It landed about 10, 12 feet short and kicked right and rolled right in.”
The 23-year-old former University of Georgia standout with three top-10 finishes this season, added birdie putts at 15, from 15 feet, and 16, from nine feet, before closing with his lone bogey.
“When I get in that kind of situation, everything is pretty much going my way and I’m very much in control of my ball,” English said.
Stefani had a bogey-free round with back-to-back birdies at the par-5 third and par-3 fourth as well as the par-3 eighth and par-4 ninth and a final birdie at the par-5 16th.
Americans Scott Stallings and Paul Haley shared third on 135, five strokes off the lead. Davis Love was in an all-American group on 136 that also included Glen Day, Justin Hicks, Nicholas Thompson and Doug LaBelle.
Defending champion Dustin Johnson, in his first event since a back injury forced him out of the Players Championship last month, hit a 70 to stand in a pack on 137.
Phil Mickelson, a five-time US Open runner-up who is set to try again to finally claim the long-sought crown next week at Merion, fired a 67 to stand in a group on 138, much happier than after his opening-round 71.
“I let a number of shots slide [on Thursday],” Mickelson said. “I made a couple of dumb mistakes and I think that’s why I enjoy the competing element before a big event like the US Open next week.
“And I’m not selling myself out this week. I feel like if I play better than I did today, I’ve got a low round in me,” he said.
AP, ATZENBRUGG, Austria
Joost Luiten of the Netherlands shot a 4-under 68 on Friday to take a one-stroke lead into the third round of the Lyoness Open.
Luiten holed three birdies on both the front and back nine, offset by two bogeys, to sit at 11-under 133. He is one shot in front of Paul Waring of England (67), Callum Macaulay of Scotland (66) and Eduardo de la Riva of Spain (69).
“I played well, I hit the ball well,” Luiten said, adding that he was not fully satisfied with his game. “I didn’t make as many long putts as yesterday.”
Luiten trailed Tom Lewis by two strokes overnight but the Englishman made five bogeys in shooting a 74.
Hennie Otto of South Africa hit a 65 to climb to fifth place, three shots off the pace, and was later joined by Romain Wattel of France who had a 68.
Defending champion Bernd Wiesberger, at 61st the highest-ranked player in the field, carded a 71 and dropped to 17th at five under.
“The first 11 holes I played pretty well,” the Austrian said, who likely needs a top-10 finish to qualify for next week’s US Open.
Wiesberger added a double bogey on the par-3 15th but improved his score with two birdies on the final three holes.
Former winners Markus Brier of Austria (2006), Richard Green of Australia (2007) and Jose Manuel Lara of Spain (2010) all missed the cut.