Skinning deer at eight and skinning the best golfers in the world at 36. Whatever people in this country may say about Brian Harman’s hobbies, there’s no doubting the magnificence with which that 200-1 smash on Sunday night became the 151st Open Championship winner.
He ended this tournament the same way he’d dominated it – by hitting the kind of putt that bigger men with bigger names had been lacking all week.
As the ball hit the ground after its final eight-foot journey, Harman clenched his right fist and was about the happiest man ever to stand on swampy grass in the pouring rain.
But until then there was no surprise. No longer.
That had been the case when he had a lead on Thursday, and even more so when he moved up to a five lead on laps two and three. All along we were waiting for him to fall, to give in to the pressure of his circumstances, but by the time he made the final putt, he had already ripped the field apart.
American golfer Brian Harman won the first major of his career at the Open on Sunday
He was excellent at applying pressure and fending off some of the biggest names in the sport
His last lead to victory? An amazing six shots is the difference between his 13 under par score and the quartet of Jon Rahm, Sepp Straka, Jason Day and Tom Kim behind him. daylight in cloudy weather.
Only one man has won the Open by more margin since 1913 and that was Tiger Woods. Harman now joins him and Rory McIlroy as the youngest winner of that championship at those famous Hoylake courses.
There will be a temptation to talk about an underdog story here because Harman is completely anonymous outside of his sport.
That might explain the intrigues and grimaces this side of the Atlantic in discussions of his love of hunting, including some grisly images of his conquests.
But as world No. 26, his emergence on the winning stage shouldn’t necessarily be seen as a bolt from the blue – he’s not on par with Ben Curtis in 2003. And yet it’s quite startling given that he hasn’t won on the PGA Tour in six years and has only been in the top 10 at a major twice, including his runner-up finish at the 2017 US Open.
He told us this week how he had allowed this opportunity to take over, but here his composure was best expressed through the sheer brilliance of his putting. Golf has long lamented the plague of big shots, but this was a victory built on the flat club.
Indeed, at 5’11” this unassuming chap was nowhere near the top 100, but he did make 58 out of 59 on the crucial putts over 10ft. In a major championship, that’s absolutely remarkable.
With the Claret Jug sitting next to him and tears drying in his eyes after a final round of 70 players, Harman said: “I always had the confidence that I could do something like this.” When it takes so long, it’s hard not to keep your sanity. I’m 36 years old and the game keeps getting younger.
The 36-year-old said after the win he “always had the confidence to do something like that”.
He started to dominate with a brilliant second run that put him five shots clear at the front
“It was difficult to deal with. I think someone mentioned that I’ve had more top 10 finishes (on the PGA Tour) than anyone since 2017, so a lot of people say, “Damn, man.”
“It just didn’t happen, for whatever reason.” “I don’t know why this week, but I’m very grateful it did.”
Sometimes golf has a habit of delivering these weeks. For McIlroy, the question is when will the next major be majored in?
He needs no reminder that his wait for fifth place will now stretch into a tenth year, which may dominate his thoughts more than the satisfaction of another good finish – his 68 last round put him six under par and a tie for sixth place.
That’s nice in and of itself, but he’s missed far too many putts throughout the tournament, raising the familiar question of whether the missing figure is technical or mental.
Tommy Fleetwood will have regrets too – his first 66 was great but with a 72 caused by a nightmarish triple bogey on 17 on Sunday he had played the last three rounds in an over. The Englishman’s 31-year spell at The Open lives on.
Not that anyone could have caught Harman on Sunday. In conditions that did not favor a low score, the pursuers could only hope for a capitulation not seen since Jean van der Velde in 1999. That didn’t happen.
Tommy Fleetwood will regret not being able to follow up on a brilliant 66 in the opening round
Sepp Straka (left) and John Rahm (right) both threatened to pressure Harman but couldn’t match his steely temper
Even as Harman faltered at two and five bogeys, reducing his lead from five to three overnight over Rahm, who had made the fifth birdie, he responded with back-to-back birdies from 13ft and 23ft at six and seven.
Another misfortune struck on the par 3 13th when he missed his only short putt of the week, but again he managed to get shots on the next two holes. He was a machine and Rahm wasn’t – after that early birdie the Spaniard played his last 13 holes in the same par.
Other small forays came from Straka, an Austrian Ryder Cup contender, who finished an excellent tournament with a 69, and the brilliant Korean Tom Kim, who scored a 67.
You deserve your second place. But they would never hunt the hunter.