English clings to WGC St. Jude lead as Ancer, Smith charge

Washington (AFP) –


American Harris English clung to a two-stroke lead after Friday's second round of the WGC St. Jude Invitational despite strong charges into second by Australian Cameron Smith and Mexico's Abraham Ancer.

English, chasing his third title of the year, followed an opening 62 with a five-under par 65 to stand on 13-under 127 after 54 holes at TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tennessee.

"I've been playing really solid," English said. "When I miss the greens I feel like my short game has been on point. I'm putting it well. Everything is clicking right now."

World number 10 English won January's Tournament of Champions and June's Travelers Championship, his first PGA titles since 2013.

"You've got to keep the gas pedal down," English said. "The scores are pretty low right now and you can't let up."

Smith and Ancer each fired 62s to share second on 129, with the Aussie matching the record for fewest putts in a round at 18.

"It's a pretty cool little title I guess to have next to your name," Smith said.

"I was actually hitting really nice golf shots that ended up just going off the green and made a few of them. Was seeing the putts really good today."

England's Ian Poulter and Americans Sam Burns and Scottie Scheffler shared fourth on 130 with major winners Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa and Bryson DeChambeau of the United States another stroke adrift.

English, who began on the back nine, sank a birdie putt from just inside 35 feet at the par-3 11th hole and another from just inside 10 feet at the par-3 14th. He dropped his approach seven feet from the cup at the par-5 16th and made the birdie putt.

English answered his lone bogey at the second with an eagle at the par-5 third, dropping his second shot within five feet of the cup and sinking the putt. He added a final birdie from nine feet at the par-3 eighth.

"That eagle, that bounce-back after my lone bogey, I feel like I just really shook off that bogey well and kept on going," English said.

- 'Good day on greens' -

Smith opened with a birdie and eagled the third as well, holing out a bunker shot from 33 feet, then chipped in from 22 feet to avoid dropping a shot at the par-3 fourth before holing a 30-foot birdie putt at the fifth and a six-footer at six.

The Aussie sank birdie putts from 23 feet at 12, 17 feet at 14 and 15 feet at 16 to complete a bogey-free round.

Ancer, who began off the 10th tee, sank 16-foot birdie putts at 11 and 12 and five-footers for birdies at 15 and 16. He reeled off birdie putts from 16, 10 and nine feet on holes 1-3 and added another from 15 feet at the seventh in his bogey-free round.

"Very solid off the tee and iron play as well, rolled the ball really good," Ancer said.

"That's always my goal, to be bogey-free when I tee it up."

Phil Mickelson, who won the PGA Championship in May, opened with four birdies and made the turn at 5-under 30 to match his low WGC nine-hole stroke-play total. The 51-year-old US left-hander shot 66 to share 21st on 135.