Rónán MacNamara in Hoylake
Brian Harman insists he will learn the lessons of the 2017 US Open where he held the 54-hole lead to try and convert his 36-hole Open Championship lead into a Claret Jug.
Known as Brian ‘Butcher’ Harman for his love of hunting he has taken just 48 putts through 36 holes on the Royal Liverpool green which has helped him into a five-shot lead over local hero Tommy Fleetwood. Friday morning was one of the rounds of his career as he reeled off four successive birdies from the second before rolling in a 15-footer for eagle on 18 for a bogey-free 65 to reach ten-under-par.
The left-hander has a solid major record with top-13 finishes in all four championships including a T6 last year. This isn’t the first major lead he will sleep on having held a one-shot lead at the 2017 US Open in Erin Hills after three rounds only to share second, four shots behind Brooks Koepka.
“I think about it a lot, obviously. I’m around the lead a bunch. It’s been hard to stay patient. I felt that after I won the tournament and had the really good chance at the U.S. Open in 2017 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,” said Harman who carded his first Open Championship eagle since round two in Hoylake in 2014.
“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.”
The American who is without a win since 2017 feels last year’s Open Championship was the kickstart he needed on links courses.
“I came over early for the Scottish last year, and I think I beat two people at the Scottish Open. Played horrible. Then played bad the first day at St Andrews, was like, golly, I love coming over here but I’m getting my teeth kicked in.
“I had a really nice back nine, made the cut by a couple, and then played really well on the weekend.
“I’d say it was nice to finally turn the corner last year to where this is probably my seventh or eighth Open Championship. Before last year had never really even been anywhere close to in contention or even doing halfway decent.”
The bulk of the early risers were on site to follow Rory McIlroy who scrapped and battled for a one-under 70 to lie nine shots shy of Harman.
Harman wasn’t touched in the afternoon as the charge of Jordan Spieth faded after he roared to five-under with three birdies in his opening six holes while overnight co-leader Fleetwood was unable to make any forward move, settling for a level-par 71 to lie in second place.
“It turned into a grind in the end. I actually think for the most part of the round I played — I actually felt like I played really, really well. I just never got any momentum built and didn’t hole any putts, and eventually I had the long one on 10,” said the Englishman.
“I felt like I played well for a lot of it, but just in the end it was hard. One mistake on 16 with the tee shot; the bunkers are the ultimate hazards.
“But at the same time, the way that I started the round yesterday where I felt like I had to grind it out a little bit, today was the finish where I felt like I had to do that, and that’s just as satisfying as playing great. You know you stuck in there and overall level par wasn’t really a bad round today. It feels good.”
Next best of the challengers is Austrian Ryder Cup hopeful Sepp Straka while Australia duo Min Woo Lee and Jason Day share fourth with India’s Shubhankar Sharma.
Of the Irish raiders, McIlroy lies just four shots off second placed Fleetwood while Pádraig Harrington scrapped and scraped his way into the weekend on the cut line which fell at three-over-par.
Seamus Power birdied the last for a 75 and four-over total but he came up one shy of his first cut at the Open Championship.
Shane Lowry (+7) endured a torrid back nine of 41 and ended a club in arrears while Laytown & Bettystown amateur Alex Maguire slumped to an 80 to miss the cut on ten-over-par.
2011 Open champion Darren Clarke finished on plus eight.
Heading into the weekend just five shots separates Fleetwood in second and 25th place while Harman sits pretty at the summit knowing he will be tough to catch with brutal weather expected for the final 36 holes.