Rónán MacNamara in Hoylake
The hunter has no problem being the hunted.
Brian Harman played golf true to his nickname ‘Butcher’ as he showed his killer instinct to blow away the field and cruise to his maiden major championship at the 151st Open in Royal Liverpool with a fabulous display of leading from the front.
Teeing off with a five-shot lead, Harman (-13) repeated his Saturday heroics to recover from two early bogeys and post a fantastic round of 70 to win by a thoroughly impressive six shots in the Wirral washout for his first success in 2268 days.
“I’ve always had a self-belief that I could do something like this. It’s just when it takes so much time it’s hard not to let your mind falter, like maybe I’m not winning again. I’m 36 years old. The game is getting younger. All these young guys coming out, hit it a mile, and they’re all ready to win. Like, ‘when is it going to be my turn again?’. It just didn’t happen for whatever reason. So, to come out and put a performance like that together, like start to finish, just had a lot of control. I don’t know why this week, but I’m very thankful that it was this week,” said Harman.
Over the weekend, Harman continuously recovered from mistakes with birdies, no more so than when he drained a 40-footer into the heart of the hole for birdie on 14 to claim back the dropped shot on the previous hole. A birdie on 15 meant he could coast home – the teeming rain and miserable conditions didn’t feel so bad all of a sudden.
The American let a shot go on the par-4 2nd in what was an edgy start and he did really well to avoid a second bogey in three holes with a gutsy up and down from the long grass. However, anticipation that this mundane championship could be blown wide open was rife when Harman drove into the left hand gorse on the par-5 5th. A well executed third left him with a seemingly routine pitch and putt, but his pitch was heavy handed and another shot went.
It was de ja vu for Harman who seemed unflappable and responded with back to back birdies on the sixth and seventh to return to -12 and restore his five shot cushion.
Having briefly led by six shots, he took a five shot lead into the back nine as the chasing pack struggled to gain any momentum in the biblical rain.
There were flickering challenges from Jon Rahm, Sepp Straka and Tom Kim but ultimately nobody was able to string together a run of birdies to emerge from the pack and apply some pressure.
Harman ranked 26th in the world will now crack the top-10 for the very first time and he can look forward to a Ryder Cup debut for the USA in Rome this September.
There was also a case of de ja vu for Rory McIlroy who once again raised the hopes of the packed galleries with three successive birdies on the 3rd, 4th and 5th but like Saturday, he was unable to build on his fine start and eventually dropped a shot on the 10th.
A birdie on 14 kept his faint hopes alive but a par on the par-5 15th signalled the end of his race. A dropped shot on 16 was an unnecessary kick in the teeth although he carded his first two of the week on 17, rolling in a fifteen footer.
It’s now 20 top-10s in major championships for McIlroy since winning the 2014 PGA Championship as the wait for that elusive fifth major title enters its tenth year.
South African amateur Christo Lamprecht capped off a sensational month by adding the Silver Medal to his Amateur Championship title.
The 2018 East of Ireland champion shared the overnight lead after round one but endured a difficult three days, eventually finishing T74 on plus eleven but it was enough to take home silver as the only amateur to have made the cut.
“I told my caddie yesterday it’s been a week with every bit of emotion felt, kind of coming off a high on Thursday and just not having it the last three days.
“I felt like kind of in control of the golf ball not nearly as well as I wanted to or as I know I can be. It was a little bit disappointing, but obviously standing here being the last amateur standing and getting the silver medal this afternoon, yeah, it puts a smile back on my face.”
261,180 fans poured through the gates this week making it the largest attendance for a Championship held outside of St Andrews, surpassing the total of 237,750 at Royal Portrush in 2019.