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Harris English showed he belonged on the PGA Tour on Sunday. The four-time All-American at the University of Georgia displayed grit down the stretch, carding two birdies on the final two holes to win the FedEx St. Jude Classic for his first Tour title.
The 23-year-old finished at 12-under 268, two shots ahead of Scott Stallings and Phil Mickelson at TPC Southwind in Memphis. The victory was worth $1.026 million, 500 FedEx Cup points and a two-year Tour exemption.
More importantly on a personal level, the triumph meant that English will play in the 2014 Masters at Augusta National, a dream-come-true for any golfer, but especially one born in Georgia. "The main thing that I am looking forward to is playing the Masters next year," he told reporters following the trophy presentation.
"Growing up in Georgia, I mean that was the main tournament that I always watched and went to when I was a kid. The invitation to the Masters is going to be very special and special for my family because they've put a lot of hard work and a lot of time and to get me where I am."
Here's what else English had to tell reporters during a Q&A Sunday evening.
MODERATOR: All right. We'd like to welcome the 2013 FedEx St. Jude champion, Harris English. Harris, that's quite a smile you have on your face. I know it's music to your ears to hear that. Your 44th PGA Tour start, first PGA Tour win. Final round 69 today, good for a two-stroke victory. All that being said, I'll turn it over to you for some comments. Congratulations on your first PGA Tour win.
HARRIS ENGLISH: I appreciate that. It's quite an unbelievable feeling. FedEx was an awesome sponsor this year for this tournament. It's probably one of the best tournaments I played in all year. All the volunteers. It really felt like home here. Everywhere I went they were saying, "Go get them, Harris. Go Dawgs, Go Baylor." I really felt at home this week. It was awesome. Made me comfortable out there on the golf course, and I had a lot of friends come out and put a smile on my face on the golf course. To play in a FedEx tournament, they're the title sponsor here, but they do a lot more than just put on this tournament. They put on the season long race to win the FedEx Cup. And it's cool to win their title or main tournament, and it goes to show you that FedEx does a lot for golf. Really appreciate what they do because without the FedEx Cup, we would really have nothing to play for.
MODERATOR: Okay. With that, we will open up and take some questions.
Q. Harris, it's only been an hour, I guess, or so since you won. Has it sunk in, just kind of what this means and what it means for your career?
HARRIS ENGLISH: The main thing that I am looking forward to is playing the Masters next year. Growing up in Georgia, I mean that was the main tournament that I always watched and went to when I was a kid. The invitation to the Masters is going to be very special and special for my family because they've put a lot of hard work and a lot of time and to get me where I am. I've had a lot of good people around me in South Georgia and Chattanooga and Athens and now Sea Island, Georgia. This is for them. I would not be where I am today with all the help and support from all my friends and family.
Q. Harris, you mentioned feeling like home. Did that help a little bit on day where you have a birdie, then you have a bogey, especially at 8 and 9 when you dropped a couple back to back to back, to rebound and finish the way did you?
HARRIS ENGLISH: Yeah. I mean, I had probably 10 high school friends out there today. And I know that if I make a birdie or bogey, they're going to be the same and they're rooting me on. I was just really relaxed out there today. Bogeyed 8 and 9, which was tough, but I knew if I kept it going on the back-9, I could make a run at it. Having Smitty on the bag, Brian Smith who has been out here for 20-plus years and has won golf tournaments, he was very calm down the stretch and it made me feel calm to know that he was calm and relaxed and very confident in what I was doing and the way I was playing. So, everything really just came together.
Q. Harris, how did the association with Brian Smith, how did that come about?
HARRIS ENGLISH: Well, through my agent with Crown Sports. Jimmy Johnson who caddies for Steve Stricker caddied for me a couple times. I guess Brian and Jimmy were good friends and Brian had just - Brian just pulled out. It kind of comes and goes. Caddies and players kind of split up all the time. And I was lucky to have Brian at the right time, I guess. He had just split up with Sean and kind of came about at the right time. It worked out and kind of gave him a trial run. And we really clicked, and I was really confident in what he was doing and he was pretty confident in what I was doing. We made a great team.
Q. Can you just talk about how hard you've worked all your life to get to this day, how this day really affirms your status on the PGA Tour and how hard you've worked to get to this day?
HARRIS ENGLISH: Yeah. I've been playing competitive golf since I was probably 9, 10 years old. You always dream about, No. 1, playing on the PGA Tour. That was always my dream. When people ask me in class like, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" mine was always, "I want to be on the PGA Tour."
Lot of my classmates really didn't know what that was or didn't really think I could do it or whatnot, but I always had that dream and my parents really made that possible. If they didn't drive me around to tournaments and do all the stuff they did for me, I would not be sitting here right now. All my golf coaches and friends, I mean really came behind me to support me so I can do this as a job. I mean, it's unbelievable seeing the St. Jude kids out there. They're out there struggling for their life and fighting every day with cancer. And we get to travel around and play some of the best golf courses in the world. It's an awesome job. I love doing it.
Q. Harris, what kind of momentum did you get from leading after the first two rounds? How much did that play in the weekend?
HARRIS ENGLISH: Yeah, I mean, that was my first time holding the lead in a PGA TOUR event, especially after 36 holes. I felt very, very comfortable, very calm out there. I've been - I haven't been leading a tournament before, but I've been around the lead and I really know how it felt. And having those three Top-10s this year really, really helped me. And I'm still learning. I mean, this is my 44th event, and I'm still learning every day and trying to learn from the veterans at Sea Island as much as I can. It's good to play with them pretty much every day when I'm home, because they've been here, they've been in this situation and know what feels like to be on 18 and you can't feel your hands and you're shaking. And it's good to have guys like that that I can lean on and throw stuff at and it just goes back to the team around me. I feel like I've surrounded myself with some really good people that have really helped me.
Q. Phil and Scott were in. So as you go to 18, what was kind of your mindset knowing what was out there?
HARRIS ENGLISH: I really didn't know what Scott and Phil had done on the last hole. I knew I heard some Phil roars out there on 15 and 16, but that birdie on 17 was huge. Having a two-shot lead coming into 18, which is probably the hardest hole on the golf course, it was a perfect wind for me, downwind. I could just smash my 5-wood out there and hopefully not go through the fairway in the bunker and it was really a perfect hole to have a two-shot lead. I could play for par and hit it in the middle of green and 2-putt or maybe three-putt and have the victory. Really that birdie on 17 was huge. I really wasn't going for birdie there. I mean, I had that 20-footer downhill. I was really trying to 2-putt and it went in dead center and gave me a lot of momentum coming into 18.
Q. How aware of your status were you? Did you realize that Scott has bogeyed or that you had tied there in that little stretch there in the last, four holes?
HARRIS ENGLISH: I thought he was a couple up, and when we get to 14, I looked over to the leaderboard and I saw I was tied for first at 10-under. Kind of shocked me. I thought Scott would be at 12 or 13 and I had to make some birdies coming down the stretch. And some of those last holes are tough and I had some good opportunities. I hit it well off the tee and made a good birdie at 16, made a good two at the time and then 17. I really didn't think I'd be in this seat right here coming off 9. I thought I kind of made some really dumb bogies on 8 and 9 and kind of shot myself out of the tournament. But Smitty was saying, "Hey, let's go beat this back nine, let's get back under par for the tournament for the day and let's get after it." So it was almost pedal to the metal.
Q. Your standing on the 18th tee and you look out, and I guess do you know that you had the lead right then? How do you calm yourself down, I guess, to focus on golf and not think about what this means to you when you're standing there and play golf? HARRIS ENGLISH: Yeah. I mean, it's probably one of the best feelings when you play golf, play competitive golf to have those butterflies, have that feeling. And I've had it a couple times in my life and I love it and I thrive on it. It really enhances my focus. All I was thinking about was the tree trunk I was aiming at and just go for it. I mean, it's really a surreal feeling when you're in that situation. Tiger is one of the best at it and Phil. When they get in the situation, they thrive and they seem to play better. And it was an awesome feeling.
Q. You talk about playing with the pros back in Georgia and not feeling your hands on 18. How were you on 18?
HARRIS ENGLISH: I was shaking. I was glad I had a two-shot lead on that two-footer I had because my hands were shaking. I couldn't feel them and I was just hoping that ball goes in the hole.
Q. What's your schedule looking like from here, and what do you now do to set your sights for the rest of this year?
HARRIS ENGLISH: I'm going to kind of take a step back and have the people who are around me, my agency, kind of take a look at what's coming up. I don't think I'm in the Open next week. So I'll go back to Sea Island and hang out a little bit and rest up and probably play Travelers and AT&T and kind see where it goes from there. I think I get into Bridgestone and PGA. So, hopefully couple more big tournaments like that. Kind of changes the way I play this year. I'm trying to get up to the top of that FedEx Cup list and hopefully have a run at that and it really opened some doors for me in golf tournaments.
Q. I know we spoke all week about the University of Georgia program, and you spoke about it out there on the 18th. But looking back now, what does that mean just to see what that program has produced?
HARRIS ENGLISH: It's awesome what Chris Haack has done there over the past 15, 20 years. It's unbelievable. I mean, Russell winning the first tournament, the Sony Open this year: It goes to show how good a team we had. I mean, they - and Russell pushes me. That's what we did at Georgia with Hudson, Brian Harmon, who is out here on the PGA Tour. We all push each other to get better, and it's good to see a lot of them out here and still continue to push each other out here.
MODERATOR: All right. Well, Harris, congratulations on your win.
HARRIS ENGLISH: Appreciate it.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.