The Upshot: Gritty Harman joins winning ranks
July 13, 2014
By Craig DeVrieze, PGATOUR.COM
- Brian Harman put forth a stellar performance to hold off Zach Johnson for his first TOUR title. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
SILVIS, Ill. -- In the Takes-One-to-Know-One department, Brian Harman is in very good company.
“He has always been known as just kind of a gritty player who plays pretty simple golf,” Zach Johnson said in describing his St. Simons Island, Georgia, neighbor and the freshly crowned John Deere Classic champion Harman.
Sound like anyone Johnson might know?
“Jim Furyk?” quipped Johnson, the 11-time TOUR winner whose own brand of gritty, simple golf fell a shot short of Harman’s 22-under 262 winning total at TPC Deere Run on Sunday. “Yeah. That’s kind of what I try to model off of.
“He’s fierce,’’ Johnson added of his young neighbor. “There’s not a whole lot of fear there. Might be a small guy, stature-wise. But there is nothing small about him in his golf game.”
Indeed, at 5-foot-7, 180-pounds, Harman looks up to the bulk of his TOUR peers, including the 5-foot-11 Johnson.
But Harman stood tallest this week, finally collecting the victory for which he has been itching over 88 TOUR starts spanning 2-and-a-half seasons. That includes his maiden appearance here at the Deere in 2012, when he played in the penultimate Sunday pairing alongside eventual winner Johnson, while fading to a share of 19th place.
“That was the first time that I was anywhere close to the lead, and having to deal with all of the distractions of playing in the last couple of groups,’’ remembered Harman. “I actually talked to Zach about it. He felt like I was trying to get out of his way a little bit and I needed to kind of stake my ground. I definitely learned a lot from that situation.”
It showed on Sunday, when Harman went out with a one-shot lead on three-time John Deere winner Steve Stricker, and promptly staked his claim to the top of the leaderboard with 223-yard shot to inside 5 feet at the par-5 second. He rolled in the eagle putt and never wavered thereafter, offsetting a bogey at the fifth with a steely birdie at the difficult par-4 ninth and three birdies coming in.
He led by two on the 18th tee and a tap-in bogey for a closing round of 5-under 66 made him the 20th first-time winner at the John Deere and the seventh former Georgia Bulldog to win on TOUR this year.
The latter was a significant accomplishment in Harman’s mind, because the Savannah-bred lad is a Bulldog – and a bulldog – through and through.
“We had some good teams, man,” Harman said of squads that included recent TOUR winners such as Harris English, Chris Kirk, Russell Henley, Patrick Reed and Brendan Todd, as well as an alum named Bubba Watson. “We’re always pushing each other, still buddies, most of us. I’m so excited that now we’ve got something else to talk about.”
Harman had plenty of time to talk with several of those UGA chums on a John Deere-sponsored charter flight to London Sunday night. In addition to the 500 FedExCup points that lifted him to 14th in the season-long race and the $846,000 winner’s share, the recently engaged 27-year-old’s victory earned him the final berth in next week’s Open Championship. In addition, he'll make his debuts in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and Masters Tournament next year.
Sporting a wide grin with the John Deere trophy in front of him in his victory’s aftermath, Harman admitted all those perks crossed his mind during Sunday’s round.
“I think anybody who says they block all that out, they’re being a little facetious,” said Harman, whose previous best finishes on TOUR were a pair of thirds.
But his answer to those distractions was to ask: "What’s the best way to get those things you want? I’ve got eight holes to play, and I have got to play these holes like I play all the time.”
Harman played them like a champion, which, of course, is what he now is, standing shoulder- to- shoulder with all those former Bulldog teammates and the worthy list of recent Deere winners such as Stricker, Jordan Spieth and his gritty St. Simons Island neighbor.
“I appreciate the way Zach plays the game,” Harman said of Johnson, who he said often bikes past Harman’s home with his children in tow. “He does it the right way. He does what he does extremely well.”
Still, Harman’s breakthrough victory also is a result of committing to stand on his own.
“At the beginning of this year, I kind of caught myself trying to imitate too many guys at once,” he said. “And I just kind of made the decision to try and be a little bit better version of myself. To do the things that I know how to do and to see where that took me.”
His immediate destination is Hoylake. And, from there, who knows where?
“I think the future looks pretty good,” said the gritty new champion.
Congrats @harmanbrian on the big win today.. You deserved it.. See u in England!!— Brandt Snedeker (@BrandtSnedeker) July 13, 2014
JOHNSON IS READY FOR OPEN: Zach Johnson last year shook off the disappointment of a playoff loss in his fifth major, the hometown Deere, and turned in his top Open Championship performance a week later, a share of sixth at Muirfield.
After his third runner-up finish near his hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Sunday, Johnson quickly set his sights on Royal Liverpool and this week’s Open Championship.
“My game feels good,” he said. “My expectations are to go over and keep processing the way I’m processing, keep hitting solid shots. I feel like my game can climb the leaderboard in that golf tournament. It is a tournament where driving the golf ball well is a premium. But I also learned that the short game is what is going to take you further.
“I love the nuances of it,” he added of links golf. “I love what it demands. You have to do everything. It’s pure golf.”
Johnson, of course, also loves the Deere, where he is a member of the board of directors and has finished third or better in six of the last seven events, including a victory in 2012. His Sunday 64, the day’s best round, was his 24th straight round in the 60s at TPC Deere Run.
Finishing second for a second straight year and for the third time since 2009 was a bit frustrating, he conceded.
“But a small percentage of frustration,” he said. “I haven’t had a decent week since prior to Augusta. I’ve got some good things going now. I’ve had some time off. I’m a little bit rested. A lot of positives.”
Steve Stricker had a rough Sunday trying to chase a fourth John Deere title, but he did make this amazing par: http://t.co/Y25zjSKwij— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) July 14, 2014
STRICKER'S STROKE ESCAPES HIM: Steve Stricker lingered for an uncomfortable moment over a 9-foot, 5-inch putt straight uphill on Sunday’s opening hole. It’s the kind of putt Stricker routinely has drained throughout his magical run at the John Deere Classic. This putt never threatened the hole and, for Stricker, magic didn’t happen in this final round.
Stricker’s renowned putting stroke eluded him through the day as he ran edges on four more birdie chances and lipped out another as he parred his way through 11 holes. A wayward swing at the par-3 12th led to double bogey and ended any hope of the 47-year-old hoisting the Deere trophy for a fourth time in six years.
“I just couldn’t get it in the hole,” said Stricker, who fell to T11 from solo second at the start of the day with a 1-over round of 72, his first over-par TOUR round at TPC Deere Run in eight years and 23 rounds and only his third ever at the course. “Hit a lot of good putts, too. Rolled a lot of them over the edge. It just got to the point where I started to press.”
Stricker is forgoing a trip to the Open Championship and will tee it up next at the World Championships- Bridgestone Invitational in August.
PHOTO GALLERY: Check out our favorite images from Sunday at TPC Deere Run
ROOKIE IOWAN CASHES IN DEBUT: Steven Ihm, the former Iowa Hawkeye making his professional debut, carded a third straight round in the 60s Sunday and earned $30,628 with a 10-under 274 total. That left him in 27th place.
“I learned a ton about myself this week,” said Ihm, whose hometown of Peosta, Iowa, is roughly an hour north of Silvis. “I definitely know my game is where I want it to be.”
He next will compete in an Iowa mini-tour event before attempting to qualify for Web.com Tour’s Midwest Classic in Overland Park, Kansas.
ODDS AND ENDS
Jerry Kelly scored a T3 with Jhonattan Vegas, his third top-10 finish at TPC Deere Run and his second top 10 of the season. He moved past $1 million in seasonal earnings for the 12th time in his career. ...
Vegas collected 160 FedExCup points to earn eligibility for the remainder of the season. He started the year on a Major Medicial Extension after undergoing shoulder surgery in February of 2013. ...
Brian Harman joined Michael Clark III (2000), David Gossett (2001), Mark Hensby (2004), Sean O’Hair (2006), John Senden (2007) and Jordan Spieth (2013) in collecting his first PGA TOUR at TPC Deere Run. Other players to win their first TOUR title at the Deere include Payne Stewart, Scott Hoch, Roger Maltbie and D.A. Weibring.
CALL OF THE DAY: John Maginnes of PGA TOUR Radio on SiriusXM and PGATOUR.COM calls Brian Harman's finish at No. 18 to win the 2014 John Deere Classic
Category Player Statistic Driving distance Steven Bowditch 318.9 Driving accuracy
Zach Johnson 45 of 56
Scrambling David Toms
18 of 20
Greens in Regulation Brian Harman
87.5 percent Strokes gained-putting Jerry Kelly 7.285 Total birdies 1,844 Bogey-free rounds
First round: Zach Johnson (63), Rory Sabbatini (63), Todd Hamilton (64), William McGirt (64), Kevin Tway (65), Ryan Moore (66), Jerry Kelly (66), Bud Cauley (67), Chad Campbell (69), Joe Ogilvie (69).
Second round: Tim Clark (63), Jonathan Byrd (66), Kevin Na (66), Bud Cauley (67), Brian Davis (68), John Senden (69)
Third round: Scott Brown (61), Chad Campbell (62) Brad Fritsch (63), Tim Clark (64), Jerry Kelly (65), David Toms (66), Paul Goydos (66), Retief Goosen (69).
Fourth round: Zach Johnson (64), Jhonattan Vegas (65) Jerry Kelly (66).
Low score First round: Zach Johnson, Rory Sabbatini, Brian Harman, 63.
Second round: Tim Clark, 63.
Third round: Scott Brown: 61.
Fourth round: Zach Johnson (64)
HOLE STATS Hardest hole Par-4 No. 18: 4.236 Easiest hole Par-5 No. 2: 4.528
Brian Harman news conference after winning the John Deere Classic