Hey, Whalak! In the 151st Open Championship final round at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club, American Brian Harmon made a remarkable first tee shot, and someone in the gallery exclaimed, ‘Bank it!’
Coming into the round with a five-stroke lead, Harmon, when on the second, nailed his approach shot to the right of the green, and the gallery erupted with a joyous cheer.
On Friday, after his second round of 5-under 67 gave him a five-stroke lead, it seemed like all of Great Britain wanted him to win. He had transformed into the local favorite, routing England’s super-bowler on the front nine and never relinquishing the lead.
Ranked 26th in the world, Harmon carded a 1-under 70 in the final round to claim the Claret Jug with a total of 271, six shots clear of South Korea’s Tom Kim, Austria’s Spa, Australia’s Jopp, and Australia’s Jopps Day.
Harmon’s six-stroke victory was the second-largest in Open Championship history. Only Tiger Woods had a larger margin when he won at St. Andrews in 2000.
At 36 years old, Harmon is now the oldest major champion since Spain’s Sergio Garcia at 37, who won the Masters in 2017. He collected $3 million for the victory.
Harmon, a 125-1 underdog to win The Open, wasn’t a favorite in Las Vegas or among Liverpool bookies. He likely doesn’t care.
On Saturday, during his match with Englishman Tommy Fleetwood, Harmon said he had heard some things that were ‘unbelievable.’
‘I’d be lying if I said it didn’t bother me, but I try not to let it affect the decisions I’m trying to make,’ Harmon said.
On Sunday, the gallery celebrated wildly for Fleetwood, who hails from Southport, 30 miles down the road in England. They tried to rally Rory McIlroy, who won the Open Championship in 2014 at Royal Liverpool and sought to end a drought of nearly a year without a victory.
They cheered wildly for American Cameron Young, the long-hitter who started the final round closest to Harmon, five shots back. They rooted for Rahm, Straka, DeChambeau, and Kim, who all made spirited runs and appeared capable of turning the three-day dogfight into a thrilling finish.
They merely waited for Harmon, or at least anyone else, to create some excitement. That moment came at the par-4 14th hole when Harmon drained a 40-foot putt for birdie. He made an 8-footer for birdie at the par-5 15th to go to 13-under.
‘I think it’s good for Harmon,’ said PGA Tour player Harris English, one of his closest friends, making his way to Scotland for his pilgrimages. ‘It keeps a fire in him. He knows he’s not the favorite. I think he likes being the underdog.’
After capturing just one bogey over the first 36 holes, Harmon ran into trouble early on Sunday. On the par-4 second, he missed the green with his approach shot. He needed two putts to make bogey from 20 feet, making a 7 ½-footer to save par at the par-3 third after missing the green and a green-side bunker shot.
He encountered more issues at the par-5 fifth, pushing his tee shot to the right in the gorse, hitting a third to the fairway, and then gouging a 7 ½-footer to save par.
On the par-5 10th, he found more trouble, pushing his tee shot into the gorse again, and after gouging a third into the fairway, he laid up to 75 yards and hit another good shot to make an 8-foot par putt.
He saw the big lead on the leaderboard and figured that a few pars would be good enough.”
With this victory, Harmon will move up to No. 3 in the FedEx Cup points, hoping to secure an automatic spot on the American team for the Ryder Cup, which will take on Europe at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club in Rome on Sept. 29 and Oct. 1. He’s certain of one thing, though: that he’s not ready to join the ranks of being an assistant captain.
The diminutive 5-foot, 7-inch, and 150-pound Harmon has been overlooked and underrated throughout his entire professional career. That’s why he’s been seen carrying a small, banker-like chip on his shoulder.
“People undervalued him on baseball fields and football fields, everywhere,” said Paton Kizirian, one of Harmon’s loyal friends who traveled with him. “As a golfer, you can make it for this. You don’t have to be the biggest. I think he likes being the underdog.”
After a bogey-only bogey card through the first 36 holes, Harmon had his first direction of trouble on the front side on Sunday. On the par-4 second, he missed the green with his approach shot. He needed two putts to make bogey from 20 feet, making a 7 ½-footer to save par at the par-3 third after missing the green and a green-side bunker shot.
He ran into more trouble at the par-5 fifth, pushing his tee shot into the right gorse, hitting a third shot to the fairway, and then gouging out a 7 ½-footer to save par.
On the par-5 10th, he found more trouble, pushing his tee shot into the gorse again, and after gouging a third to the fairway, he laid up to 75 yards and hit another good shot to make an 8-foot par putt.
He saw the big lead on the leaderboard and figured that a few pars would be good enough.
Now, as he leaves with the Claret Jug, Harmon will take on the role of an underdog with pride, hoping to continue his success in the game he loves.