By Tim Liotta
Brian Harman's Open Win: A Golf Dream That Came True
By winning the 151st Open Championship at Royal Liverpool, Brian Harman confirmed the dreams, the beliefs of every professional golfer on the planet, that the week of a lifetime is out there, that it can happen.
The 36-year-old Harman could always play. He played his first PGA Tour event in 2004 at the age of 17. In his second later that year, he made the cut.
He won a U.S. Junior amateur, reached the ranking of the #1 amateur in the world, and was at the time the youngest American ever chosen for a Walker Cup team.
Harman joined the PGA Tour full-time in 2012, and played 339 events prior to last week's Open Championship. He posted 50 career top-10s, and had more top-10s (29) than anybody else on tour since 2017, but won only twice, and not once since 2017.
So, before he'd become a major champion, but after he'd opened a five-shot lead that he'd carry for two days on his way to winning the first major of his 12-year career, Harman was asked if he ever thought about why he had not won more often.
"I think about it a lot, obviously," said Harman on Friday. "I'm around the lead a bunch. It's been hard to stay patient.
"I felt that after I won the tournament (the 2017 Charles Schwab Challenge) and had the really good chance at the U.S. Open in 2017 (he held the 36- and 54-hole lead that year) that I would probably pop a few more off, and it just hasn't happened. I've been right there, and it just hasn't happened.
"I don't know. I don't know why it hasn't happened, but I'm not going to quit. I'm going to stick with it and just keep after it, and hopefully it'll pop one day."
Sunday, whatever it was that had been missing popped in a way that the rest of the golf world was completely unprepared for.
Brian Harman proved that the golf game that had so far given him a successful but non-descript professional career could dominate the best players in the world in one of the four biggest championships held each calendar year.
"He won by six. It's not like he won by two or three," said Jon Rahm, the No. 3-ranked player in the world who finished tied for second. "He won by six, so there's nothing really any of us could have done. There's nothing any of us could have done."
And Harmon won in a way not seen in major championship golf in recent years, with the accuracy, not the length, of his driver. He led the field in fairways hit, just like Tiger Woods did in winning at Royal Liverpool in 2006. Tiger did it with a 2-iron. Harman did it with a driver.
"You know, I've always had a self-belief that I could do something like this," said Harman in the press conference after Sunday's final round, with the Claret Jug at this side. "It's just when it takes so much time it's hard not to let your mind falter, like maybe I'm not winning again.
"I'm 36 years old. Game is getting younger. All these young guys coming out, hit it a mile, and they're all ready to win. Like when is it going to be my turn again.
"It's been hard to deal with. I think someone mentioned that I've had more top 10s than anyone since 2017, so that's a lot of times where you get done, you're like, dammit, man, I had that one; it just didn't happen for whatever reason.
"Yeah, to come out and put a performance like that together, like start to finish, just had a lot of control. I don't know why this week, but I'm very thankful that it was this week."
Harman's performance sucked the drama right out of the championship. Instead of appreciating Harman's achieve, those on the NBC broadcast spent hours Sunday trying to drum some up without success. Only Paul Azinger appreciated the difficulty of what Harman was trying to do: execute golf shots with the kind of lead that invited every unnerving thought that might be swirling around a lesser player's psyche. Azinger oohed, aahed, gasped, and repeatedly expressed his amazement at the clinic Harman was conducting on how to make golf dreams come true.
"I had a lot of success as a junior golfer," Harman said. "I won the U.S. Junior, and then as an amateur I was the No. 1 ranked amateur in the world for a good while, was the youngest American to get picked for the Walker Cup. I had success. Like I had the pedigre"Then I got to college and it just kind of sputtered a little bit. I just didn't keep up with the -- I didn't keep up with the progression.
"My pro career has been really good at times and not good at times."
And never better than his week at Royal Liverpool. He overcame shaky starts Saturday and Sunday, led the field with the fewest bogeys (six), and recovered after four of those with a birdie on the following hole, focusing on the task at hand rather than allowing his thoughts to wander through why he couldn't win, why he wouldn't win. A random moment of inspiration didn't hurt either.
"After I made the second bogey (Saturday), a guy, when I was passing him, he said, 'Harman, you don't have the stones for this.' That helped."
After the laughter disappated in the press conference, Harman elaborated: "Yeah, that helped a lot. I think he was -- anyway, that helped.
"Anyway, it helped 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."
Next question: So it was a case of trying to prove any doubters wrong?
"You know, I'm not going to give any more -- I shouldn't have given him credit right there," Harman said. "Yeah, just the resilience, just knowing -- I knew I was going to make -- I figured at some point that I was going to hit bad shots.
"Just with the weather and the scenario, you're going to hit bad shots. I knew that the way I responded to that would determine whether I'd be sitting here or not."
So, if a 5-foot-7, close-to-beyond-his-prime veteran tour pro who had never won like he thought he would, who had wondered if he ever would win again, and who had to tamp down worries that the professional game might be passing him by, could be in a press conference sitting next to the Claret Jug with his name newly inscribed into it, as worthy of the etching as Woods, Nicklaus, Palmer, Hogan, Sarazen and Jones, it would be nice if everybody who seeks to play the game of golf at its highest level woke up Monday morning a little more hopeful, a little more determined, a little more hopeful, holding Harman's victory as proof that their golf dream could come true, too, even if nobody else is ready for it.