“Do I expect hostility? I have no idea” – Harman ready for the Open boo boys

Ronan MacNamara

Brian Harman (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Ronan MacNamara

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Brian Harman proved that he has thick skin when he upstaged the crowd favourites as he won the 151st Open Championship in Hoylake last year and he may need to block out the noise if he is to successfully defend the Claret Jug.

Harman said he suffered “unrepeatable” abuse when he won at Royal Liverpool and he is braced for more verbal jibes in Royal Troon this July, if they come his way.

Harman was poorly received at the presentation ceremony, although the torrential rain had plenty to do with that, but during his third round when he was playing with Hoylake favourite Tommy Fleetwood – born in Southport – he was subject to abhorrent abuse.

He was also booed on the first tee when he started his final round although that only spurred him on to victory as he became only the third left-hander to win the Claret Jug after Bob Charles and Phil Mickelson.

“Do I expect hostility? I have no idea,” said the American who described most of the fans at The Open as “knowledgeable” and a “joy to play in front of”.

“I’ll be ready for whatever. I’ve always really enjoyed playing golf in front of the fans over there because they understand what a good shot is. They understand what a bad shot is. They get it.”

Harman won’t be the first person to have got off on the wrong foot with links golf and he won’t be the last. But over time he learned to love it and at a rain sodden Hoylake last year he was the last man standing with the Claret Jug.

Like so many who have gone before him, just ask Tom Watson, Harman did not immediately fall in love with links golf and all it brings with its punishing bunkers, long fescue rough, high winds and erratic bounces.

Harman has never visited Royal Troon which will host the 152nd Open Championship in July, it’s tenth time in doing so but he did suffer a chastening experience at the neighbouring Prestwick at the 2006 Arnold Palmer Cup.

The American lost all four of his matches and he came away absolutely hating links golf, after struggling around the greens and battling with the wall on the right hand side of the first hole at Prestwick, the host venue of the inaugural Open in 1860.

“The first time I played links golf I hated it – it ate me to pieces,” said the 37-year-old, who lost all four of his matches as Europe thrashed the United States in the 2006 Palmer Cup.

“I kept trying to hit lob wedges around the greens and the weather was bad. I got whipped, lost all of my matches.”

The defending Open champion ironically did not return to links golf until making his Open debut at Royal Liverpool where he fell in love with the style of golf.

“I had a stretch where I missed four cuts in a row at The Open and just couldn’t quite get it figured out but I knew that I really enjoyed the golf even when I wasn’t playing great,” he added.

“It’s a thinking-man’s game. You have to be able to hit every single type of golf shot.

“There are lots of different ways to be successful and that’s something that’s lacking in our game week to week and I wish we had a little bit more of it.

“It’s refreshing to play hard golf that’s not just a one-stop shop.”

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