In the end, success in golf always comes down to numbers. And Brian Harman winning the Open Championship on Sunday by six strokes tells you all you need to know.
Harman missed just one putt inside 10 feet all week at Royal Liverpool. He made just six bogeys over 72 holes and followed up a bogey with a birdie four times. When the dust settled, Harman became the third golfer in the last 40 years to win a major by six or more strokes.
Harman’s Open Championship triumph in Hoylake, England was not the most exciting, nor is he the most mobile person in men’s golf. Even his planned celebration will be fairly low-key — he recently got a new tractor for his hunting cabin and plans, after a few days visiting his family at their lake house in upstate New York, to put away his phone and mow his 40 acres.
But you win a big one in half a dozen strokes and all that’s left is a tip and a cap.
“I’m over the moon,” Harman said. “There were passing thoughts throughout the day, but I told myself I wasn’t going to let any of them enter my mind. So every time it came, I just thought about something else. Honestly, I didn’t think about winning until I had the ball on the green on 18.
The win was Harman’s third on the PGA Tour. He earned $3,000,000 (US) for the win, the largest first-place prize in Open Championship history.
Harman started the day with a five-shot lead and there were plenty of notables clutching his legs in hopes of creating some kind of drama on Sunday, including world No. 3 Jon Rahm, who came off a 63 Saturday, and world No. 2 Rory McIlroy, who was one stroke away to bounce back from his victory at the Genesis Scottish Open last week.
There were some results from the aforementioned pair, but such is links golf – and especially links golf in the kind of weather at Royal Liverpool on Sunday, a bone-soaking English rain that fell all day – where the shells came as fast as the birds.
“I’m looking at the forecast and I’m like what the hell are (weather forecasters) doing and I come out here and it’s Armageddon. It was bad. It was really hard,” Harman said.
Harman began his final round in similar fashion to his third round, birdying two of his first five holes. However, he made back-to-back birdies on Nos. 6 and 7, and although he added a birdie on the par-3 13th, he again made back-to-back birdies. The last two rounds on the scoreboard, in no. 14 and 15, were interest. The trophy engraver began his work.
A quartet of players finished at seven under and tied for second, including Tom Kim, Sepp Straka, Jason Day and Rahm. Rahm’s score was perhaps more impressive, as he started the week with a 3-over 74 on Thursday.
However, he knows it wasn’t his week.
“(Harman) won by six. It’s not like he won by two or three. He won by six, so there’s nothing either of us could have done. Nothing any of us could have done,” Rahm said.
McIlroy finished tied for sixth with Emiliano Grillo, while Shubhankar Sharma and Cameron Young finished tied for eighth – with Sharma notching the best ever finish by an Indian golfer at The Open.
Max Homa claimed a career-best finish in 10th place alongside Tommy Fleetwood and Matthew Jordan, a member of Royal Liverpool who had the honor of scoring the first goal of the week on Thursday morning.
“It was just the perfect ending to the most incredible week,” Jordan said.
McIlroy opened with three straight birdies and began his hearty climb up the leaderboard, only for odd Nos 10 and 16. Instead, McIlroy will head into the 2024 Masters a decade removed from his last major triumph. However, it’s not like he hasn’t knocked on the door. He has finished in the top-8 in seven of the last eight championships, the only blemish being a missed cut at the Masters in April.
“Over the last couple of years, would I have liked to have picked one of the ones I ended up there? Absolutely,” McIlroy said. “But every time I put it up or most of the time, I’m there. I can’t sit here and be too frustrated.”
Canada’s Corey Conners finished well after a tough Sunday. His 5-over 76 moved him into a tie for 52nd.
Harman – who planned to drink some Guinness from the iconic Claret Jug on Sunday night – was just as dominant.
Not with his distance (he’s never had that as a strength), but he hit it into just three bunkers all week (including one on the 72nd hole when the championship was up for grabs) and made 45 of 45 putts within five feet with no threes. He earned an 11.57 strikeout rate with his impressive putter.
Harman had been so consistent throughout his career, posting the most top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour since going winless in 2017. He had self-belief that he could earn a degree, he said, but as he got older, he couldn’t help but have his mind wander about never earning one.
“I am 36 years old. The game is getting younger. All these young guys coming out, hitting it a mile and they’re all ready to win. Like, when will it be my turn again?” Harman thought. “It has been difficult to face.
“To come out and put a performance like that together, like start to finish, it just took a lot of control. I don’t know why this week, but I’m so thankful it was this week.”
Another week where the numbers don’t lie. Brian Harman, by six strokes, is your Champion Golfer of the Year.
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