Despite hearing that last weekend’s Open Championship had its lowest television ratings in quite a few years, I found it compelling. Admittedly, It didn’t hurt that I had Brian Harman in one of my pools. No, I didn’t win it all because the other players chosen didn’t perform as well; but I did win a few quid for a low round on Friday. (Note to the IRS: I’m still a net loser for the four majors.)
I’ve always admired the feisty and diminutive Harman who grinds out pars when he’s off-form but usually makes birdies with his steady iron game and dependable putting stroke. One of my golf cronies saw Harman (Georgia) take down Ricky Fowler (OK State) at the 2009 NCAA semi-finals at Inverness CC in a head-to-head match and never forgot Harman’s grit.
Since turning pro in 2009, Harman won twice before last Sunday—the 2014 John Deere and the 2017 Well Fargo. And since 2017, he’s led the tour in top tens with 29. He’s usually in the hunt, fitting for an avid outdoorsman and bow enthusiast. But he hadn’t won in recent years and at age 36 seemed to be stuck in neutral as a well-paid journeyman.
What most impressed me last weekend about Harman was how he “held serve” while sleeping on lead both Friday and Saturday evenings. I mean, there’s so much time before the leader tees off on the weekend at the Open. I recall one veteran PGA pro saying he handled all that time by going to bed 12 hours before the next day’s tee time. I doubt Harman followed that advice by going to bed on Saturday night at 2:15 am. Instead, his head hit the pillow at 11:30 pm.
He also demonstrated his mettle by recovering from shaky starts on the weekend, shrinking his ample lead, only to regain it later in the round. He didn’t crack.
He admitted after his victory that he was motivated by a spectator saying to him, after he made a second bogie early on Saturday, “You don’t have the stones for this.”
At the champion’s press conference, Harman elaborated: “Yeah, it helped. It helped me snap me back into I’m good enough to do this. I’m going to do this. I’m going to go through my process, and the next shot is going to be good.”
And like the rest of the field, he battled the elements. Harman played the final round in a steady rain and still prevailed. Jason Day, who finished T-2, said afterward the final round was “probably one of the wettest days” he’s ever experienced.
On the matter of ratings, it was affected to some extent to little head-to-head drama on Sunday and pre-tourney favorites like Mcllroy, Rahm, and Scheffler not being factors in the final round.
But kudos to Lee Westwood for countering the negativity surrounding the reaction to Harman’s impressive victory at Royal Liverpool.
In a column for The Telegraph, Westwood wrote: “The level of disrespect towards Brian Harman and his remarkable victory at the Open on Sunday was astounding…Imagine if Tiger Woods or Rory McIlroy had won by six shots at Hoylake. Everyone would be shouting from the clubhouse rooftops and with good reason, too.”
Sharpening his point, he added: “But because it was Harman and not a household name, the reaction on social media seemed to be ‘meh’.”
Well said, Lee!
You and Harman have stones.
image courtesy of Titleist Golf