(Reuters) – Harris English, enjoying one of his most consistent years since joining the PGA Tour in 2012, grabbed a share of the lead at the Northern Trust in Norton, Massachusetts, on Thursday as Tiger Woods lurked four shots back in the FedExCup playoffs opener.
English, who brought a streak of five top-23 finishes to TPC Boston for the first of three playoff events, mixed an eagle with seven birdies and two bogeys for a seven-under-par 64 to sit tied with Kevin Streelman, Cameron Davis and Russell Henley after the first round.
“I’m ready to make a run at it. I feel like my game is in a good spot. It’s been on the verge of breaking through for a while now, and I’m ready for it,” said English.
“I’m not satisfied with just barely being inside the Tour Championship. I want to make a move up the ranks and have a chance at lifting the FedExCup.”
A two-time winner on the PGA Tour, English made a rousing start with an eagle hole-out from 169 yards at the par-five second followed by two straight birdies before a bogey at the eighth sent him into the turn at three-under 33.
English, who entered this week 27th on the season-long FedExCup points standings, made four consecutive birdies starting at the 11th and offset a bogey at his penultimate hole with a birdie at 18 where he stuck his approach to 12 feet.
This week’s tournament, open to the top 125 golfers on the season-long points standings, is the first of three playoff events that culminate with the Sept. 4-7 Tour Championship in Atlanta and the $15 million prize to the FedExCup champion.
Only the top 70 golfers in the standings after this week go on to the BMW Championship at Olympia Fields outside Chicago, and from there the top 30 move on to Atlanta.
Woods, in his fifth event of 2020, started on the back nine and warmed up after the turn with four birdies over a sizzling six-hole stretch before a closing bogey for a three-under-par 68.
“I had a good feel today. I had nice pace, and I like the speed of these greens. They’re fast,” said Woods. “They’re soft, but they’re still quick. I just felt comfortable.”
Reigning FedExCup champion Rory McIlroy, 2015 FedExCup winner Jordan Spieth and world number one Jon Rahm were among a pack of players five shots off the lead after they each carded rounds of 2-under 69.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto and Rory Carroll in Los Angeles, editing by Ed Osmond and Richard Pullin)