What they said: Harris English and the leading contenders chat ahead of the WGC-St Jude final round

The American leads the field by two strokes heading into Sunday at TPC Southwind as he chases a third win of 2021.

Harris English likes contending.

The first time he found himself within one blow of the lead on the second tier Korn Ferry Tour, in 2011, he caught the pace-setter and completed victory.

The same thing happened on the PGA Tour.

In 2013 he was one shot behind the lead after 54 holes of the St Jude Classic, played at this week's host TPC Southwind. It was the first time he'd been so close to a third round lead at the top level.

No matter, he completed a two shot victory and five months later he did it again at the Mayakoba Classic: one shot back after 54 holes, the winner after 72.

Life at the top table seemed made for the 32-year-old Georgian, but then he lost form and spent the best part of five years as a solid PGA Tour pro.

In late 2019 he revived his fortunes and it was a close call back at the Mayakoba Classic that was instrumental in rebuilding his confidence.

Consistency followed in 2020, and then the winning touch returned. He went wire-to-wire in claiming the Tournament of Champions in January, then pounced from two back with 18 holes to play in June's Travelers Championship.

The latter win came only after a sensational eight hole playoff again Kramer Hickok that re-emphasised how English thrives in the heat of battle, something he was happy to elaborate on after posting a third round 5-under-par 65 to total 18-under 192 through 54 holes of the WGC-St Jude Invitational, two shots clear of Bryson DeChambeau and Cameron Smith.

"I love competing and playing tournament golf," he said. "Ever since I was a kid, I felt like I played better in tournaments than I did practising. I love playing with pressure, it helps me focus.

"Eight years ago, playing here, was really my first time getting in the mix and having a chance to win a tournament coming down the stretch. I really don't shy away from it.

"I feel like I'm way more of a polished player now, more well rounded. My short game's a lot better, my putting is more consistent, and I've definitely been in this situation more and more.

"It's a privilege to be in this spot. You've got to enjoy it and take the field on. I know somebody's going to get off to a hot start, somebody might shoot 63 tomorrow. I've just got to stick to my game, keep hitting fairways and greens, keep the putter hot."

He's also a good fit for the test.

"I love this golf course," he said. "I feel like my strategy through the years has really worked out and it's very similar to a course I grew up on in south Georgia. I'm very comfortable with it."

This is the third time English has held a 54 hole lead. In the 2015 Farmers Insurance Open he was tied at the top and it remained that way at the end of Sunday, but he lost the playoff. The same thing happened in this year's Tournament of Champions, except that this time he won in extra time.

Since 1996, seven of 17 solo 54 hole leaders have converted the win at TPC Southwind, four of eight have done so with a lead of two or more strokes.

Here's what else English had to say, plus the words of his nearest challengers.

English on hanging tough

"Through a 72-hole golf tournament, you're going to have nine holes like (my front nine Saturday) where you're not hitting it quite as good as you want to, you're scrapping it around. That's why I work so hard on my short game because I know some of those times are going to come and you've got to grind through it, got to make some tough pars, and then when you start hitting it good, hit it close and you can make some birdies. That's kind of how the round went today.

"One of the problems with the first six, seven holes was that I was in-between clubs a lot. It was tough to figure out the wind, it was all over the place and I finally got a good number on the ninth. I was 100% committed and pulled the shot off."

English on the chasers

"There's a lot of good players behind me and my goal is just stick to my strategy and execute and whatever happens, happens. I can't control what everybody else is doing. I can't really put a number out there. But if you play good golf out here, you can shoot 7, 8 under. So who knows what it's going to take? I've got to keep doing what I'm doing and we'll see where it is after 18 holes."

English on playing the final round with Bryson DeChambeau

"It's fun, I enjoy playing with Bryson. To me it's a lot like playing with Bubba Watson. I enjoy kind of seeing what he does. It's fun. He's great for the game and it will be fun playing in the last group. Hopefully there will be a lot of people out here and the atmosphere will be awesome."

Bryson DeChambeau - tied second on 16-under

"Didn't feel as comfortable as I would have liked with the swing, but the results were there so I was very pleased with the results. And honestly, if I can do that again, I give myself a great chance to win. If I just stay patient, relaxed and enjoy the moment, I think I'll give myself a good opportunity."

Cameron Smith - tied second on 16-under

"It was a little bit scrappy, especially early on. Didn't hit a lot of good drives and just kind of hung in there. Just to be in the hunt there tomorrow's a good enough experience in itself. I feel like I've been up there a few times now, I just need to go out there and do what I did the first three days and grind it out."

Abraham Ancer - solo fourth on 14-under

"I felt great. I was hitting the ball pretty much spot on. I'm happy the way I'm striking the ball, the way I'm playing. I love the golf course, I feel good off the tee and coming into the greens on the second shots. Just got to take it deep, keep doing the same, make some putts. Got to take it low tomorrow now."

READ MORE: Lighter, post-Covid Bryson DeChambeau hunting the win: Final round preview of the WGC-St Jude

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