Mr Consistent Harris English sets the early pace at the WGC-St Jude Invitational

Plenty of the favourites returning from the Olympics struggled, but past winner at TPC Southwind English got off to a flyer.

In theory this week's World Golf Championship-St Jude Invitational represents a chance for the elite of the game to shine.

But the man who set a blistering pace on the first nine holes of the week doesn't really see himself in that league.

Harris English hit the turn through his first round in just 28 shots, 7-under the card, leaving the superstars of the sport in his wake, and yet his own appraisal of the situation was a little less than fulsome.

"I really vie to be the most consistent player on Tour," he said. "I don't like missing cuts."

The good news for English is that by the end of the day he'd recovered from an early back nine blip to post 8-under-par 62 which left him two shots clear of Jim Herman, Carlos Ortiz, Matthew Wolff and Ian Poulter, and three ahead of Bryson DeChambeau, Scottie Scheffler and Marc Leishman.

Even in normal circumstances, he'd be on track to make the cut, but this week there isn't one anyway.

Not that he'll change his approach.

"I don't mind being the underdog," he said. "I'm happy with where my game's at right now. Just keep doing what I'm doing. If I'm underrated, overrated, that doesn't matter to me."

His round was a masterclass in superb simplicity. He missed just three greens in regulation and led the field in Strokes Gained Approach and Putting.

With that stunning front nine did thoughts of breaking 60 creep in?

"It never really pops in my head," he deadpanned. "I'm just trying to stick to my strategy every hole. I didn't get too far ahead of myself because I know this course can come up and bite you at any moment. If you start hitting in the rough, you'll start missing greens, it can get tough.

"I was just happy with the way I fought back. Had two bogeys on 10 and 12, but climbed back in it, and birdieing the last three out of four is a great way of finishing it off."

This week always had potential to be a good one for the 32-year-old. Eight years ago he claimed his first PGA Tour win at TPC Southwind and he is already a two-time winner this season.

"I just love this place," he said. "I feel like it's the most underrated course we play all year. I'm very familiar with the grass out here, Bermuda grass on the green, Zoysia fairways. It's one of those courses that suits my eye.

"It plays to the game I like to play: more strategy, get the ball in the fairway. I love small greens and these greens don't have a whole lot of humps and bumps in them. I feel like I can make a lot of putts out here."

In all, 25 players carded 67 or better so the scoring was low and English expects more of the same throughout the closing 54 holes.

But he's ready and knows that he has succeeded in those conditions, carding 21-under to win the Mayakoba Classic the same year he made his breakthrough at Southwind and then winning this year's Tournament of Champions wire-to-wire with a 25-under total.

"Yeah, I did the same thing in Maui," he recalled. "I know the scores are going to be low out here, especially if the wind stays down. It's a pretty stacked leaderboard, I know I've got to keep the foot on the pedal and stay with my strategy. You can't really play safe out here, you've got to hit some quality golf shots and keep going."

He also has his eye on another prize - a debut in the Ryder Cup.

Currently ranked ninth in the US team qualification rankings, he needs to make the top six to guarantee a spot.

"It's been on my mind for a while," he admitted. "I want to make the team on my own, I don't want to have to be a pick. It's definitely something I've been wanting to do for a long time and it's the pinnacle of our sport. I would love to be on that team."

Let's take a look at some Southwind trends and then at what a few of the other leading contenders had to say.

Southwind trends

The par-4s matter this week. In fact, two of the last three winners ranked first on them and the exception was second. Through 18 holes it is perhaps no surprise that English leads the field in this category as well as in total.

It's not such good news for Ian Poulter, who is currently 18th on those holes, but it makes Daniel Berger, who opened with a 66, a big threat because he ranked second.

This is also a track that has tended to favour specialists which is more good news for the leader, but also Berger who boasts two wins and a second from his four previous visits.

English heads into the second round as the 5/1 favourite, with DeChambeau 7/1, Scheffler 12/1 and Berger 14/1.

Ian Poulter on his start

"I don't look at this as a WGC, I don't look at that in any way, shape or form. It's a good tournament, a course I like, so hopefully I can just continue on that. No bogeys, clean card. Had plenty of chances, a couple of outside looks which kind of sniffed the hole, so all in all it's a great start."

Bryson DeChambeau on a testing course for him

"Made some birdies, which is nice. It's a tough golf course for me with the way I play, so very excited for that. Looking forward to the rest of the weekend, I feel like I can be there to win on Sunday."

Scottie Scheffler on a mini-Brooks Koepka mindset

"I guess I get a little bit more excited to play against the best players. Obviously the fields in majors and these tournaments are really good, so I think that extra level of competition and wanting to beat the best guys gives me a little extra motivation, a little extra focus."

Matthew Wolff on attitude

"Everything is starting to fall into place. I've been working really hard and haven't been playing too well throughout the entire year. I want to say that my ball-striking was really good, my putting was really good and it all kind of clicked. But I think the most important thing for me is my attitude. I think it's easy to have a good attitude when you start off well, but I made a pretty bad bogey from the middle of the fairway on 7 and after that I just felt like I kept my composure, didn't get too down on myself."

READ MORE: Jet-lag watch: how the 19 Olympians fared on day one of the WGC-FedEx St. Jude

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