Brian Harman knew he needed sleep Saturday evening, but he knew it might be difficult to get to sleep. He had been in this situation six years earlier—leading 54 holes in a major tournament—and knew the painful cost of one night. Runner-up, months and years of “what if” days, an unsung hero but not the ultra-elite career.
I slept well enough this time. Herman, who has been at the top of the Royal Liverpool Golf Club leaderboard since Friday, had a methodical run on Sunday to win the British Open by six shots and finish 13 under par. The final round was defined more by the grit of execution than the splash of star turns, with Harman holding off a mob of challengers who flocked to each other rather than the tournament scores coming close to him.
It was the widest gap in a men’s golf major since Bryson DeChambeau won the 2020 US Open by six strokes.
“I always had confidence that I could do something like this,” Herrmann said. “When it takes this long, it leaves me feeling upset that I might never win again.”
“I’m 36,” he added. “The game is getting younger. All the young guys that are coming out are hitting the mile and they are all ready to win. Well, when will it be my turn again?
Sunday cleared those doubts.
By the time the first pairing took place on Sunday, Herrmann was five strokes behind, a comfortable margin but not an insurmountable one. This was especially not the case in 1999, when Paul Lowry won the final round at Carnoustie, Scotland, by 10 strokes. That history aside, the biggest mystery for much of a clearly waterlogged Sunday at Royal Liverpool seemed to be not whether Haman would win, but how much.
Unlike Carnoustie, Royal Liverpool, who are hosting the Open for the 13th time, have long been kind to players who made it onto the leaderboard early on. With the win, Herrmann took the lead after two rounds and became the seventh man to win the Open at the course.
“He won by six points, so there was nothing for any of us to do,” said Jon Rahm, one of four players tied for second.
Harman, who played for the University of Georgia and turned pro in 2009, is certainly a talented player on the PGA Tour, with 50 top 10 finishes leading up to the Open Championship. But despite his nearly $29 million career earnings against Royal Liverpool on Sunday and his performance netting him $3 million, Herrmann was barely seen as a headliner.
He has two career wins at the 2014 John Deere Classic and the 2017 Wells Fargo Championship. The following month, after his best performance in a major tournament, he finished tied for second at the U.S. Open in Erin Hills, Wisconsin, losing to Brooks Koepka by four strokes. Before his Royal Liverpool win, he was ranked 26th in the world (never higher than 20th), but he said he doesn’t think he’s underrated.
Over the weekend, when asked what he thought was his greatest achievement in the sport ahead of Sunday, he leaned back in his seat, folded his arms and looked away, the modest Tour veteran turned open-field contender pondering his professional-golf version of a job resume.
“This is the 12th year in a row I’ve been to the FedEx Cup playoffs,” he replied about five seconds later.
His performance in the majors this year has been very mixed, but he’s now climbed up to No. 10 in the rankings. He missed out on the Masters Tournament and the PGA Championship, and finished tied for 43rd at the US Open. Then came Royal Liverpool, where he played his first Open Championship in 2014. Rory McIlroy won the race at the time, with Herrmann tied for 26th.
He continued to miss appearances in the next four open games. Prior to entering this tournament, he finished tied for 12th at the Scottish Open before returning to a course in the North West of England that has also produced champions such as Bobby Jones, Peter Thomson and Tiger Woods.
Herman’s Journey The British Open started on Thursday and finished fourth with 67. On Friday, he birdied the first four holes and scored an eagle on the final to take the sole lead on the leaderboard with a 65 mark. After two early bogeys, he entered Sunday with 69 on Saturday, five shots ahead of Cameron Young and six ahead of Rahm, who Saturday’s round was the best all-time finish at Royal Liverpool.
The course was full of dangers. As 2022 British Open winner Cameron Smith said, there were many bunkers that were effectively one-shot penalties. His newly created par-3 17th hole hurt the US Open winner so much that he suggested a redesign. Sunday was the toughest weather at the British Open. With gusts of wind and torrential rain, the course felt like a sauna and a shower at the same time.
But even with the sun in sight, a five-shot lead at sunrise is helpful.
“He’s a very tough and experienced guy,” said two-time British Open champion Padraig Harrington before the final round of Herrmann began. “Sometimes when I see someone leading in a tournament, I think, ‘Oh, can he do it?'” I don’t think that’s the case with Bryan Harman. Almost every day he goes out on the golf course and seems to be playing with a chip on his shoulder as if he were in a fight. I think this is ideal for him. “
The raindrops were still falling when Herman stepped onto the tee. He stabilized his stance with his back to the nearby claret jug, glanced at his fairway and unleashed his left-handed swing. He would score par on that hole and avoid a repeat of Saturday’s bogeys. However, he narrowly missed the par putt on No. 2, narrowing his lead as even the police turned their backs on him. Young couldn’t pull off a 14-foot birdie putt that should have brought him within a stroke.
Seven groups ahead, however, McIlroy was gaining momentum. He started the day at 3 under par. He was 6 under after five holes and suddenly tied for second. Rahm marked par and Young, paired with Herman, had already hit his first bogey. By the time Harman’s ball hit the third green, McIlroy, Rahm, Young, Tommy Fleetwood and Sepp Straka were tied for second. However, Hamann’s margin remained as much as it had at the start.
Other potential rivals were nowhere near as it was not after this cut robbed much of their future star power from the leaderboard. Most of those who remained did not pose a significant threat. World top-ranked Scotty Schaeffler finished the Open at even par. Windham Clark, who won last month’s U.S. Open, left Hoylake in one over, as did Smith. Koepka, who won the PGA Championship this year and finished runner-up in the Masters, has an 8-over.
On the par-5 fifth hole, the easiest test of the week, Herman’s tee shot flew 249 yards and slammed into the bush, just less than half the pin.
That pin was where reigning Masters champion Rahm started his advance, tapping the ball to score Sunday’s first birdie. Herman’s 12-foot part-try ultimately failed as he made his way onto the green, and Herman’s lead shrunk to three by the end of the tournament’s fifth hole.
The suspense didn’t last long at all.
He picked it up again on the par-3 6th, sank a birdie putt from about 14 feet, and birdied again from 24 feet on the 7th.
Consistency returned until Herrmann bogeyed the Royal Liverpool member’s favorite par-3 13th. But the players closest to Herman were rapidly approaching the 18th green and time was running out. McIlroy, who had been chasing his first major title since 2014, missed a birdie putt to finish at 6-under. Tom Kim soon left the final green at 7-under, along with Rahm, Straka and Jason Day.
Elsewhere on the track, Hamann himself was heading in a direction that would inevitably change the possibilities. He birdied on the 14th hole with a putt about 40 feet downhill into the cup. He then birdied the 15th to extend his lead to six.
It kept raining. Herman continued his march. A parade of eliminated players heads to the clubhouse. Prepared by a Claret Jug sculptor.
It will soon be time to add Herman’s name.