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May 11 2012

7:09 PM

Harman finds company, hits stride

Harman saves birdie on No. 8

In Round 2 at TPC Sawgrass, Brian Harman holes his 43-yard second shot on the par-3 8th hole for birdie.

By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Brian Harman's first PLAYERS Championship has been nothing if not a roller-coaster ride.

The rookie came to TPC Sawgrass as the first alternate, then nearly missed the chance to play after D.A. Points withdrew with a back injury seconds before he was supposed to tee off Thursday morning. Points' playing partner, Carl Pettersson, had already hit his first shot, which limited the time to locate Harman, who was on site and ready but unable get to the tee before the next group arrived.

Several hours later, though, tournament officials made the unusual decision to insert Harman in the field. He teed off alone before the afternoon wave began.

"I got some fans yesterday," Harman said. "I saw on Twitter there was a ‘free Brian Harman’ movement. ... I thought that was hilarious."

On Friday, Harman got some company, taking Paul Casey's spot – the Brit had withdrawn with a shoulder injury -- in the 8:50 a.m. group with Bud Cauley and Ryan Moore. Harman played well, too, shooting a 68 that not only enabled him to make the cut, it put him in the mix at 3 under.

"I had a lot of people from the crowd hollering out, 'What's up, Solo,'" the good-natured lefty said. "I said, 'Yeah, found me some friends today.' I was telling everybody yesterday, I was the Ty Cobb of golf, out there playing by myself.
   
"I really wanted to get into my own little deal out there, and you know, for me, this is a major. I feel like this is the fifth major and I wanted to be out there, just me and the golf course."

Harman started slowly on Friday, making the turn in 37 after a bogey at the 14th hole. He turned things around, though, with an 11-foot eagle putt at the second hole, then made three birdies in his next seven holes.

"I was struggling," Harman recalled. "Wasn't in a good frame of mind. Hit a really good shot on 2. Hit a big, high hybrid that stopped (11) feet from the hole and I made it for eagle. It was my first under par score of the day and that just gave me a little bit of confidence, and I just rode it all the way in, capped by that nonsense shot on 8."

Nonsense, indeed. Harman had actually found the cart path off the tee on the par 3. He took a free drop then – despite the funky lie -- proceeded to hole a lob wedge for the 2.

"I said, man, I can't believe I dropped it into that lie right there," Harman remembered telling his caddy. "But I had a little gap through the trees and had plenty of green to work with. When it hit the green, I was like, well damn, that one looks all right. As it got closer and I was like, there's no way that thing is missing. That was really cool."

Harman celebrated by high-fiving the fans standing around him.

"It was great," he said. "My caddie said a guy was behind him and threw his beer up in the air and spilled all over him. That's why you play the game.  That's why we're out here; and to have that kind of support, and to have those guys freaking out, it was awesome. It was awesome. I'll go right back over and buy them another beer."

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