DUBLIN, Ohio — Harris English received a warm welcome as he returned to the PGA Tour on Tuesday at Muirfield Village Golf Club after more than four months away. He had just arrived at class when he was informed that he had been randomly selected for a drug test – the more thorough variety which involves a blood draw. Which means a needle. The English don’t like needles. After 20 minutes, he emerged with a large bandage stuck to a cotton ball in the crook of his right arm.
“I didn’t pass out,” English said rather proudly with a huge grin. He was ready to go to work.
“I’m pretty tired of watching everyone on TV,” he said. “I can’t wait to go play. I love competitive golf.
English, 32, is set to compete in this week’s Memorial Tournament, and he has every reason to be hungry. He’s gone from the momentum of the best golf of his career to his first Ryder Cup in 2021, but has been on the bench since the Sony Open in Hawaii after undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right hip.
It turns out that Harris was enduring near-constant pain midway through a career year.
“When you’re at a pain level of three or four every day, that becomes your normal and you go with it,” English said. “You know what not to do in the gym. You know what shots you shouldn’t hit. You play around it. You do your physical therapy and work around it. Until the day you can’t take it anymore.”
English, who won two of his four PGA Tour titles last year, propelling him to a spot on Team USA’s Ryder Cup, had suffered from hip problems for nearly 10 years, he said. declared. But he reached a point where he could no longer function on the golf course. After finishing T-55 at the Sony Open, English knew he needed time off. He had felt good in the Ryder Cup, where he went 1-2-0, but struggled at the start of the new season with two missed cups surrounding a CJ Cup withdrawal.
He decided to rest for three weeks after back-to-back departures from Hawaii, but when he showed up at the WM Phoenix Open he knew he couldn’t function. “I was going to put it back in the Tour Championship,” said the Englishman, ranked 26th in the world. “I just spent three weeks at home; I should have felt good. It was then that I knew.
English underwent surgery on February 14, something of a Valentine’s Day gift. He had hoped to be back for the PGA Championship at Southern Hills in Tulsa two weeks ago, but walking 18 holes still wasn’t possible, so he had to pull out. Since then he has completed five full 18 holes, so he thinks he is finally ready to put his body to the test at this week’s Memorial. Muirfield Village isn’t the easiest ride on tour, but that’s part of the appeal for the Georgia native.
“The most difficult thing, he says, is walking and playing. You can practice at home, of course, but there’s a difference between working on some things on the course, getting a good one on the course, and then going to play a few holes at home and then taking the next step to be ready to play tournament golf. I feel that I am close.
In fact, the hardest part was sitting at his home in Sea Island, Georgia. He wasn’t used to it. And he didn’t want to get used to it, so he pushes things a bit to get back on the course. “I don’t want to miss major tournaments anymore,” he said emphatically. “I want to play the US Open and the British, so I want to do everything I can to be ready for those.”
English, who will only be making his fourth start at the Memorial, has not only had to rehabilitate his surgically repaired hip, but he also needs to acclimate to a slightly different swing, which no longer requires additional stress on his back to protect his hip. When he won the Travelers Championship last year in a record eight-hole playoff with Kramer Hickock, he was in agony as overtime progressed. “I remember telling my caddy [Eric Larson] on the seventh hole my back was done and we have to end this thing now.
What the English did with a birdie on the extra eighth hole.
How come he played so well feeling so bad? The Englishman, in his 11th year as a pro, can only shrug his shoulders. “I just got used to being in pain. I made it work.
Whatever happens this week – English has two top-20 finishes at the Memorial – is not as important as what happens in the following weeks. What the English hope will be nothing. He has no expectations. He is testing things, progressing to the last two majors of the year, but also beyond.
He is tired of sitting still when there is a career he would like to resume. He loves the work, loves the practice, and he loves the “brotherhood” as he calls touring and being in the company of his peers.
“Yes, I had the best year of my career last year. It was a lot of fun and I achieved one of my main goals by being part of the Ryder Cup team and being part of , which was amazing,” he said. “But at the same time, I knew I had to take a step back. I still want to play this game for the next 15 years. I have played golf a lot over the past 20 years. So it’s about keeping your body healthy and performing at a high level, not just now, but for many years to come.