Here’s the good news for Harris English: Opening rounds of 66-64 have the PGA Tour sophomore in the lead entering the weekend at the Fedex St. Jude Classic. So what’s the bad news? Even a first career victory won’t get him into next week’s U.S. Open.
Instead, English will have to settle for a trip to next year’s Masters, a two-year exemption and a seven-figure winner’s check should he remain in front, but all of that is still 36 holes away.
After opening with three birdies and an eagle hole-out on Friday morning, the University of Georgia product added two more late birdies before his lone blemish of the day – a bogey on the closing hole at TPC Southwind. Competing in his 17th event this year, English already has three top-10 finishes.
What was at one point a five-stroke lead over the nearest competitor now rests at just two, as rookie Shawn Stefani fired a 65 to join English in the final pairing of the third round. Stefani, who earlier this week qualified for the U.S. Open, won’t be in unfamiliar territory, as he got into a similar situation at the Tampa Bay Championship earlier this season before finishing in a share of seventh place.
Scott Stallings and Paul Haley II are each sitting at 5 under, five strokes off the lead.
Stallings has been hot on the weekends as of late, firing a final-round 66 at the Crowne Plaza Invitational and 67 at the Memorial Tournament to finish T-4 at each event. For the rookie Haley, this is uncharted territory. The Web.com Tour graduate had previously missed the cut in nine of 10 starts, his lone paycheck coming in the form of a T-73 at the Valero Texas Open.
Trailing them is a fivesome at 4 under led by Davis Love III, as the former Ryder Cup captain searches for his 21st career win and his first since 2008. He is tied with Doug LaBelle II, Glen Day, Justin Hicks and Nicholas Thompson.
Defending champion Dustin Johnson posted scores of 67-70 and will enter the weekend in a share of 11th place.
Phil Mickelson, who only recently added this tournament to his schedule as a tune-up for next week’s U.S. Open, is tied for 22nd place after a second-round 67 that included five birdies and just one bogey.
After rounds of 73-72, 14-year-old Guan Tianlang failed to advance to the weekend. He's now 2-for-5 in cuts made this season. He made the cut at the Masters and the Zurich Classic before going on to miss the cut at the Byron Nelson, the Memorial and this week in Memphis.