Brian Harman hate, Rory, Beatles: 50 Open Championship observations
HOURS FROM A BUDDIES GOLF TRIP, U.S.A. — Let’s go back to early April. Two days before the start of Masters week. Saturday night.
The Final Four of men’s college basketball was being played. First up was San Diego State versus Florida Atlantic, Connecticut versus Miami followed, and the national semis were great, but not so much because of the games — though SDSU and FAU was a buzzer-beating classic. Just look closely at who was there.
San Diego State, a five seed. Florida Atlantic, a nine seed. UConn, a four seed. Miami, a five seed.
Cinderella reigned. Gone were the Goliaths. Our brackets were busted. And we loved it.
Hooray for the little guy!
Why the hate for Brian Harman?
You could hear it at Royal Liverpool as he marched toward his convincing Open Championship victory, though at least that was somewhat understandable — with both Tommy Fleetwood and Matthew Jordan (a Liverpool member) in the mix, the Brits were backing their local guys. But peruse the world wide web, and it was there, too. An underdog winner? Please no. Give us Rory. Give us Rahm. Give us an update on Tiger’s health. But bloody hell, don’t give us …
Let’s make that observation No. 1, as we look back on the Open week that was. But I’m also a little curious: Why do we love our golf kings and queens so much, or at least compared to other sports? Of course, maybe I just listen to a negative crowd. But if you’re in the mood, reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org or through a DM on Twitter (or whatever they call it now) @nickpia.
On to the observations. Let’s try for 49 more. At the end, I’ll explain the dateline above.
2. Let’s talk Harman the golfer. He’s a puncher, but not a swinger. Body blows, not uppercuts. But it was unrelenting. Safe drive, safe iron, green. Safe drive, safe iron, green. Safe drive, safe iron, green. Safe drive, safe iron, green. Knockout. He hit into two bunkers all week. In ’06 at Liverpool, Tiger Woods hit into zero. Both won.
3. To that end, I enjoyed this piece from Golf Digest’s Luke Kerr-Dineen on Harman’s ‘Moneyball’ approach.
4. Of course, it helps to capitalize on chances. And Harman was an incredible 58 of 59 on putts from inside 10 feet.
5. To that end, I enjoyed this piece from GOLF’s Nick Dimengo on Harman’s putting secret at Liverpool.
6. The question is: Was it all just a magical week? Maybe. Did Harman take advantage of a course that played to his strengths? Maybe. Then again, with a steady rain, the ballpark changed on Sunday — it became longer — and Harman still shot under par.
7. All that said, I’m not suggesting he suddenly becomes world No. 1. But lefties, folks say, do play well at Augusta.
8. Which actually brings me back to the first observation. Say Harman wins another major. Is he still an underdog then? What would it take for him to ditch that label? Same goes for Wyndham Clark. I mean, each of those dudes have more majors than Rory McIlroy has in the past nine years. (Low blow, I know. More on him in a sec.)
9. Let’s talk Harman … the philosopher. This may be my favorite quote of the week. It came Saturday. It made me think some.
Here is the complete exchange:
“What’s your favorite part of the hard work?”
“Someone once told me one time you should do the things that make you lose track of time, and for me, a lot of times when I’m practicing hitting balls or putting when I’m at home, I lose track of time. That’s how I know that I really enjoy it. For me, it’s just an enjoyable profession that I have.”
10. Let’s take a music break! If you watched any of the coverage this week, you no doubt saw — or heard — the Beatles, as the Fab Four are from Liverpool. And while I didn’t get Sir Paul for this story, I got the next best thing: my father-in-law.
Ron Ziegler is in the South Dakota Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. With two bands actually. But he was inspired by Beatlemania. Still is. So I asked him for his favorite songs. We’ll sprinkle in his picks as we go.
Here’s his favorite:
11. Let’s talk Harman … the grass cutter? There was also this lengthy exchange after his victory:
“I’m just wondering if as a treat and with your passion for hunting over the past few days, whether there will be a hunting trip to celebrate, whether you’ll go out. Or seeing as you’ve won quite a lot of money today, is there money for a new rifle?”
“I’m a bowhunter; no new rifles. I had a nice week a couple weeks ago and I bought a new tractor for my hunting place, so I’ll get home and I’ll be on the tractor mowing grass in the next few weeks, so I’m excited about that.
“So that’s going to be the reward; you’re going ride your tractor?”
“Yeah. Just put my phone away and go get on the tractor.
“Could you tell us a little bit more about your tractor, please?”
“I haven’t seen it yet. It’s on order. It’s a 105-horse Kubota tractor and it’s going to be a pretty one.”
“How many acres will you mow?”
“Let’s see, we’ve got about 25 acres of food plots that need — and, gosh, I don’t know how many miles of roads, but I’d call it probably 40 acres total that needs to get mowed.
“I’ve never known an Open champion to celebrate by mowing grass on a tractor …”
“I’ve got a lot of layers, man. I’m like an onion.”
“How much was the tractor? How much did it cost you?”
“Oh, gosh. I don’t know. Probably — I haven’t told my wife how much I spent on it yet.”
12. Let’s talk Harman … the hunter. He’s an outdoorsman. There was also this lengthy exchange after his victory:
“Which would you rather do, hunt for a long time the most rare animal that you could possibly come across and kill it, or win that thing [the Open]?”
“No, I’m not hunting any rare animals. I would say I love to hunt. We do it, but I couldn’t go hunting every day. I could play golf every day. To win what I consider is the greatest prize in golf, it’s as good as it gets.”
“Did you say just now that you didn’t use a rifle?”
“No, I use a bow and arrow.”
“All the time?”
“From what distance are you most deadly?”
“You wouldn’t want to be standing in front of me. I’m good out to about 80 yards, but I don’t take a shot past 40.”
“That explains your short game.”
“Yeah, good pair of hands.”
13. Let’s talk Harman … the chip-on-the-shoulder holder. I wrote about that briefly here. Maybe he doesn’t want you to believe in him.
14. GOLF’s Josh Berhow dug a little bit deeper on the thought here, with his wonderfully written final-round story.
15. GOLF’s Alan Bastable, meanwhile, dug a little deeper on one of Harman’s sponsor’s, MegaCorp, which sounds like something straight out of a Marvel movie.
16. Then there was the waggle, and I wrote about that here, with some contributions from CBS’ Colt Knost and Harman’s swing coach, Justin Parsons. We’ll add this thought, from Ian Poulter:
17. One more on Harman. In two months, he’ll likely be on the U.S. Ryder Cup team; he’s currently third in the selection standings, and the top six on Aug. 20 are automatic picks to the 12-man team. And I enjoyed this thought, from the witty Eddie Pepperell:
18. Let’s stick with the Ryder Cup. Here are the top 12 in the U.S. standings as of Monday:
1. Scottie Scheffler
4. Brooks Koepka
5. Xander Schauffele
6. Patrick Cantlay
7. Max Homa
8. Cameron Young
9. Jordan Spieth
10. Keegan Bradley
11. Collin Morikawa
12. Rickie Fowler
Is that the team? Here are a few notable players on the outside looking in: Sam Burns, Justin Thomas, Tony Finau, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Talor Gooch.
19. What about the Euros? Here are the automatic picks, as of Monday:
2. Jon Rahm
3. Robert MacIntyre
3. Viktor Hovland
4. Tyrrell Hatton
(Rahm and McIlroy are 1 and 2 here.)
Who else is in? Matt Fizpatrick, Shane Lowry and Sepp Straka should be. Then who? Maybe Justin Rose? Maybe Yannik Paul? Maybe Adrian Meronk? Maybe Victor Perez? Maybe Padraig Harrington? (That would be a helluva story.)
Maybe Ludvig Aberg and one or both of the Hojgaard twins. That’s explosive.
Maybe Sergio Garcia. That’s explosive, too.
20. Speaking of LIV, there was less discussion on it this year, when compared to last year’s Open. Patrick Reed talked about it some. There was talk that Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the governor of the Saudi Public Investment Fund, would be at Liverpool, but he wasn’t seen. Martin Slumbers, the R&A CEO, sounded like the Open wouldn’t be opposed to taking PIF money.
21. What will the talk sound like next year?
22. Clark, notably, said he’d play majors for free.
“It wouldn’t make a difference. I mean, obviously this is our living, and I think the money in our sport is a bonus personally. Some people make it more than others, and I think we’ve all seen that in this last year or two.
“But at the end of the day, to have someone like Tiger Woods continue to try to play and try to win majors I think shows where his mind is at, that he cares more about maybe the record books or going down in history or winning majors and he loves to compete.
“I’m not comparing myself to Tiger, but I love competition, and wherever the best players are I want to be and I want to play and I want to compete. So yeah, I would be here if I had to pay to play. But if I could play in a major championship, I want to be there.”
23. GOLF’s Dylan Dethier wrote an excellent piece here on golf amidst the PGA Tour-PIF deal here.
24. Let’s take a music break! Here’s my father-in-law’s second-favorite Beatles song:
25. Let’s talk McIlroy. GOLF’s James Colgan masterfully summed up his week here.
26. One of the topics in Colgan’s story was McIlroy’s media silence, with the thought presumably being that he would focus on his golf. But you should hope that this doesn’t become a trend. (Bryson DeChambeau, remember, employed this strategy two years ago, though his move came amidst the ‘Brooksie’ battle.) The hows and whys of golfers and their games are a big part of the story.
27. But good reporters can get good info elsewhere. Someone wise once told me you get thoughtful insight from those around the subject — and that you get little from press conferences.
28. Sorry, got sidetracked there. McIlroy seems a little lost, too. Does he shake things up more, beyond avoiding press conferences? Remember, he won just a week earlier. Then again, pro golf these days centers on the majors, and most pro teams in other sports don’t go nine years without a championship without some changes.
29. I enjoyed this from Emiliano Grillo, who discussed what it’s like to play with McIlroy, minutes after doing so on Sunday.
“It was fun,” he said. “I mean, obviously when you are there on the final round, you’re just trying to do your thing and everybody is saying Rory, Rory. Like I’m going to go to bed today and, you know, instead of counting sheep, I’ll be saying Rory.”
30. Let’s talk Tom Kim. A tie for second on one leg. Golf is easy.
31. Let’s talk Justin Thomas. Golf is hard.
“There’s nobody that shot 82 that hit some of the quality shots that I did yesterday,” he said Friday, one day after shooting, yes, 82. “It doesn’t make sense. I’ll hit shots like a No. 1 player in the world, and then I’ll make a 9 on my last hole of the tournament. I don’t know if it’s a focus thing or I’m just putting too much pressure on myself or what it is, but when I figure it out, I’ll be better for it.”
32. Let’s talk Rahm. Golf is hard — 74 on Thursday. Golf is easy — 63 on Saturday. What a sport.
33. Let’s talk Scheffler. Golf is hard — he ranked 149th in Strokes Gained: Putting. Golf is easy — he ranked fifth in both SG: Off the Tee and SG: Approach. What a sport.
34. Let’s talk Matthew Jordan. What a week. GOLF’s Sean Zak wonderfully wrote about the week of the Liverpool lad here.
35. Let’s take a music break! Here’s my father-in-law’s third-favorite Beatles song:
36. Let’s talk Shubhankar Sharma, who finished tied for eighth. This says a lot:
37. Let’s talk Phil Mickelson. This was notable. He was ninth for the week in Strokes Gained: Approach — and 117th in SG: Total; 137th in SG: Off the Tee; 134th in SG: Around the Green; and 156th in SG: Putting.
38. My second-favorite quote of the week? It appears Harrington is a big ‘clicks’ guy. When he was asked on Sunday what advice he would give to Harman, he started off with this:
“I did put psychological tips on my YouTube, Instagram, and nobody had any interest. They were the least-watched things when I did it during Covid. No traction whatsoever. Not interested. All those pearls of wisdom.”
39. Michael Kim made me think on this one:
40. The par-3 17th was hard, perhaps unfairly so. But, for the most part, good swings turned into good shots. It made for good theater, didn’t it? We all watched Harman’s tee shot there on Sunday, right?
“I think 17th was good fun,” Laurie Canter said Sunday.
41. The internal out of bounds was hard to manage, perhaps unfairly so. But you shouldn’t be able to hit it all over the yard. It made for good theater, didn’t it? We all watched Harman’s tee shot on 18 on Sunday, right?
“It’s fine,” Koepka said of the internal O.B. ahead of the tournament. “Just don’t hit it over there you won’t have a problem, right?”
42. The pot bunkers were hard, perhaps unfairly so. But you should be punished for hitting the ball in the sand. It made for good theater, didn’t it?
43. Another Liverpool hazard? The large TV screens on the course. This was good:
44. Another Liverpool hazard? From above. This was good:
45. Let’s take a music break! Here’s my father-in-law’s fourth-favorite Beatles song:
46. With the Open bringing an end to the men’s majors season, here’s one ranking of this year’s quartet:
1. PGA Championship: I loved Oak Hill.
2. Open Championship: I loved the demand to hit every shot in the bag.
3. Masters: I loved the battle between Rahm and Koepka.
4. U.S. Open: I love L.A. Too easy. But the Clark story was great.
47. Of course, there’s another major this week: the Evian Championship, where Brooke Henderson looks to defend. And there’s one two weeks after that: the Women’s Open, where Ashleigh Buhai looks to defend.
48. At the men’s Open, this man was everything:
49. Our gang also went down to the beach, too, as you can see here:
50. And with that, I’m heading on vacation. Me and some old friends are going to Wisconsin, where I’m originally from, and we’re playing some rounds at the Golf Courses of Lawsonia, and we’re grilling meats and we’re drinking golf sodas.
So consider this then the gentle nudge to get out yourself. It’s summer. It’s golf season. Memories are to be had. Birdies, too.
Editor’s note: I also compiled observations from the Masters and the PGA Championship. If you’re interested in the Masters story, please go here.
If you’re interested in the PGA Championship story, please go here.
If you’re interested in the U.S. Open story, please go here.