A new year, and Harris English keeps right on rolling.
English finished with a 10-foot birdie to cap off an ideal Friday at the Sentry Tournament of Champions with a six-under 67, for a two-shot lead over a quartet of players that includes defending champion Justin Thomas.
With virtually no wind, rare for the Plantation Course at Kapalua, scores remained low and several players were stacked up behind him.
That includes Masters champion Dustin Johnson, who hit it close enough all round to make a few putts in his round of 65.
“Felt like I got back in the tournament a little bit,” said Johnson, playing for the first time since his November 15 victory at Augusta National.
English is among 16 players at the winners-only event who didn’t win last year.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic that wiped out three months on the tour schedule, anyone who reached the Tour Championship qualified this year.
English did everything but win, going from No. 369 in the world to among the top 30.
And he’s playing like it. He was bogey-free and rarely faced any stress.
He was at 14-under 132, two shots ahead of Thomas, PGA champion Collin Morikawa (65), Daniel Berger (65) and Ryan Palmer (67), another player who didn’t win in 2020 and was happy to be here.
Xander Schauffele holed an 80-foot eagle putt on the 18th for a 66 and was in the group at 11-under 135 that included Patrick Reed, who had a 68.
Another shot behind was the group that included Johnson, Jon Rahm (66) and US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau (67).
Australians Marc Leishman, Adam Scott and Cameron Smith also enjoyed under-par rounds.
Leishman fired another four-under 69 for an overall eight-under total while Scott and Smith registered 71 and 70 respectively.
But the benign, friendly conditions meant they couldn’t make ground on the field.
Leishmann is tied 22nd, six off English while Scott is a shot behind him. Smith is one behind the former world No.1 in a tie for 32nd.