July 24, 2023

A Career Week at the Open

.Brian Harman completely dominated a stellar field to win the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool. His total mastery was reminiscent of what Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, or Jack Nicklaus was able to achieve at their height of their playing careers. But Brian Harman? This is player that has won 0.5% of his professional starts on the PGA Tour. Yes there have been the occasional flashes of brilliance that could indicate something special could happen in the future, but nothing transpired. His professional career is marked with consistent, but unspectacular play. You don't amass almost $32 million in career winnings in 12 years on the PGA Tour without being a very, very good player. If he didn't win the Open Championship, you would say he had a very successful career and was really good, but not great. Winning at Hoylake changes the script.

Collin Montgomerie, Lee Westwood, Doug Sanders, Bruce Campton, Miller Barber, George Knudson, and Steve Stricker are all Hall of Fame caliber players that never were able to win a major. Current players like Rickie Fowler, Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantley, and Tony Finau are current players that are missing the one title that would solidify their spot towards a Hall of Fame career. Todd Hamilton, Ben Curtis, Paul Lawrie, Danny Willett, Charl Schwartzel, Trever Immelman, Michael Campbell, Graeme McDowell, Yang Yon-eun, Rich Beem, and Shaun Micheel all are major championship title holders, but none of these players have much of resume past their one week of fame. Will Brian Harman join this list of "One Hit Wonders".

The dominance of Brian Harman at Hoylake was reminiscent of Louis Oosthuizen at St. Andrews in 2010. Oosthuizen was a relative unknown at the time and not considered a contender at the beginning of the week, but raced out to a six shot lead after 36 holes. His lead was never challenged the remaining way and he coasted to the 7 shot victory. Brian enjoyed a five shot margin after 36 holes, and there were quality players that could have stood up to pressure him the final two rounds, but none were up to the task. In the end it was Brian Harman playing alone and masterfully negotiating the disasters that Royal Liverpool presented that no others could figure out.

Putting is always a factor in winning any tournament and Brian's putting stats were off the chart! I watched Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler, and others hit seemly great putts that just grazed the edge and not go in. All were frustrated with the greens. Brian looked comfortable at any distance and putted with such confidence that it looked like every putt would go it. It was his week on the greens. He made 45 of 45 from inside 5 feet, and 14 of 15 inside 10 feet. But the most impressive was that he made 6 putts out of 29 over 20 feet with no three putts. He made a couple of 40 footers and two thirty footers. The tour statistics at 40 feet is only 4% made and 7% at 30 feet. He beat the average player that made the cut by over 11 shots on the green. Putting was great, but good ball striking also put him in position to make those birdies.

To win a major you have to be playing your A game and be mentally tough to fight off the adversities that championship courses and crowds present. Some one time winners experienced a degree of luck or being in the right place at the right time. No luck was involved this past week. Brain showed grit and mental resolve. At least for this week nothing was going to detour his mission to hold the Claret Jug. Maybe we are seeing the maturation of a champion that was a long time in coming and with it more successes will be coming in the future. Even if this was his one week to play the best golf of his life and which may never happen again, it still happened and was spectacular to watch.


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