Brian Harman’s lead at the Open Championship? It’s sizable, but not safe
HOYLAKE, England — They don’t crown Open champions on Friday, and Brian Harman knows it. He said it three different ways in his post-round interview with the BBC here at Royal Liverpool. But a special thing is brewing for the former Georgia Bulldog this week. He’s built a dominant lead through 36 holes.
At 10 under after two rounds, Harman will enter the weekend with distance between him and the rest of the field. How much distance is still uncertain, but no one in the afternoon is going to catch him. Harman, who is 36, seized control of the tournament by not making a bogey all day Friday, chipping in for par when he got into trouble and holing a 15-foot eagle putt on the finisher. No one is touching 10 under.
We’ll see if anyone can get to nine, eight, seven or even six. That’s how big this lead has become. His Saturday final-pairing partner may be five shots behind him. That’s what near-flawless golf will do for you.
“I’ve been hitting a lot of fairways, and then I’ve been hitting it on to most of the greens and I’m putting well,” Harman said. Simple game, right? “I don’t know what anybody else has been doing, other than the two guys I played with.” That would be Thriston Lawrence of South Africa and Thomas Detry, who is from Belgium. “They played great today.”
Harman isn’t afraid to crack jokes in press conferences. When the same BBC interviewer asked Harman if the course favors lefties like him, he said, “I didn’t play any practice rounds as a righty, so I can’t help you with that one.”
This is all part of the song and dance that takes place when a somewhat surprising player takes the lead in one of the biggest golf events in the world; the media ushers him through a get to know you exercise. Harman is not well known across the pond. Just a pair of PGA Tour wins. A boatload of top 10s. Never a Ryder Cupper.
A popular question from the local press during these weeks of summer golf in the U.K.: When was your first experience with links golf, and how much did you like it? Harman — whose first of seven Open starts came here at Royal Liverpool, in 2014 — loves the challenges and quirk of this style of golf, even if his record might indicate otherwise. After finishing 26th in 2014, he missed the cut in his next four Open appearances before finally notching a T19 at Royal St. George’s in 2021.
Harman says he loves the variety of shots you can play into firm grounds with heavy winds. He likes that there aren’t a bunch of forced carries to fairways or into elevated greens. He’s not a long hitter, but in this part of the world, where the ball rolls and rolls, it’s easy to feel like one.
He believes he finally turned a corner with his links golf last year, in St. Andrews, when a Sunday 66 netted him a T6 finish. On Instagram, he made his thoughts about the golfing holy ground clear:
“This place is rad.”
You have to imagine he feels similarly about Royal Liverpool, where everything seems to be going right. First in Strokes Gained: Putting. Fourth in SG: Off the Tee. Eleventh in SG: Around the Green. We’ll see how well he does with Strokes Gained: Waiting.
“I have a very active mind,” Harman said. “It’s hard for me — I’ve always struggled with trying to predict the future and trying to forecast what’s going to happen. I’ve just tried to get really comfortable just not knowing.”