(Reuters) - American Harris English spectacularly holed out with an eight-iron to eagle the par-four fifth on the way to a two-shot lead after Friday’s second round of the St Jude Classic in Memphis, Tennessee.
The 23-year-old, seeking his first PGA Tour title after playing his rookie season on the U.S. circuit last year, fired a six-under-par 64 in good scoring conditions at the TPC Southwind to take control of the tournament.
One of six players tied for the lead overnight after opening with a 66, English also recorded five birdies and a lone bogey at the par-four 18th, where he missed the fairway off the tee, to post a 10-under total of 130.
PGA Tour rookie Shawn Stefani was alone at eight under after carding a 65, with fellow Americans Scott Stallings (68) and Paul Haley II (68) a further three strokes back.
Defending champion Dustin Johnson was among a group of 12 players knotted at three under after returning a 70 in the final PGA Tour event before next week’s U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pennsylvania.
English made a barn-storming start with birdies on his first three holes, then got to five under for the round when he holed out from 170 yards at the fifth.
“One, two and three are some of the easiest holes out here and to make birdies on those jump-started my round, it really got me going,” English told Golf Channel.
“I was hitting the ball well and my speed on the greens was really good. I was just trying to keep it going.”
The American, who covered his back nine in one-under 34, readily conceded he had been very fortunate to eagle the par-four fifth.
”That’s probably one of the hardest holes on the golf course,“ English smiled. ”I hit a nice three-wood off the tee and I had about 170 to the hole.
“I hit an eight-iron which landed 10, 12 feet short and it trickled in. It was pretty cool.”
English, whose best PGA Tour finish was a tie for fifth at last year’s Crowne Plaza Invitational, said he was steadily learning how to contend on professional golf’s most competitive circuit.
”It’s really about getting comfortable out here and getting comfortable with the lead and around the lead,“ he said. ”I am hopefully starting to grow into that.
“This is only my second year out here so I am learning from every round and every shot, trying to get better every day.”
Four-times major champion Phil Mickelson improved on his opening 71 with a 67 to end the day eight shots off the pace, one stroke better than Irishman Padraig Harrington (70).
“I made a couple of dumb mistakes, and I think that’s why I enjoy the competing element before a big event like the U.S. Open next week,” Mickelson said after a four-birdie display.
The cut fell at one-over-par 141 with American world number six Brandt Snedeker, former major winners Trevor Immelman, David Duval and Lee Janzen and 14-year-old Chinese Guan Tianlang among those missing out.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue