SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – If Augusta National is the annual putting contest in major championship golf, Whistling Straits would qualify as the Grand Slam driving competition.
It was little surprise then that Harris English and Russell Henley found themselves in contention early on Day 1 on the 7,501-yard layout.
The two University of Georgia products combined to hit 17 of 28 fairways on Thursday for matching 68s that left them tied for second place and two shots behind Dustin Johnson.
Both players spent most of this week working on their driving with swing coach Scott Hamilton. For English it was an equipment change and, as Hamilton explained, a move that allowed him to stay on top of the ball at impact to create a dependable fade.
“You’ve got to be able to drive the ball well out here and you have to hit the fairway,” English said. “On [No.] 18, if you don’t hit the fairway it’s a par 5.”
Similarly, Henley spent the week working with Hamilton trying to get a “left bias” out of his driving game. The result was a closing nine of 4 under and his best start at a PGA Championship.
“That’s what held him back from really playing well last week,” Hamilton said of Henley’s tie for 17th at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, where he ranked 49th out of 77 players in fairways hit for the week.