Wild about Harry
Higgs is no sideshow act. He’s a winner in waiting.
August 10, 2021
By Ben Everill , PGATOUR.COM
- Harry Higgs looks to push towards his goal of making the TOUR Championship. (Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
BANDON, Ore. – The views were breathtaking, but Harry Higgs was commanding all the attention. All eyeballs were on him, not the Pacific Ocean off in the distance. And he wasn’t even swinging a golf club.
Harry was just being Harry.
There was a reason TaylorMade asked Higgs to attend this event last month to promote its new line of irons and wedges to a small group of journalists. And there was a reason Higgs obliged, instead of taking advantage of a rare off week on the PGA TOUR calendar.
Higgs, for lack of a better term, is a people person.
His entertaining, larger-than-life personality has quickly made him a fan favorite. He’s captured a cultlike audience for being the “everyman” on TOUR. It was on display at Bandon, where he was the master of ceremonies. He was spinning stories, telling jokes and needling folks for their choice of shoes, clubs or clothing. He was everyone’s instant best friend.
On his flight to Oregon, Higgs set up a Q&A with his Twitter followers and was asked who he would pair with if he was to take on Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady in a match. The always confident Higgs had said, “I’ll play with anyone. And I don’t think @PhilMickelson is ready for my trash talk.”
Mickelson – who earlier this season became the oldest player to win a major at the PGA Championship (Higgs finished T4 that week) – engaged and eventually a match was declared. Higgs and Keith Mitchell will play Mickelson and Joel Dahmen in a Tuesday practice round at Liberty National ahead of next week’s THE NORTHERN TRUST, the first event of the FedExCup Playoffs.
Alright that’s it for me folks! I’ll be doing this again soon! Thanks @PhilMickelson for putting me in my place. I’ll see you in a few weeks 😎— Harry Higgs (@harryhiggs1991) July 26, 2021
“This trip is my warmup for Phil,” Higgs declared at Bandon in front of a group that had handicap indexes ranging from +2.7 to 18. “What are we thinking? $5,000? $10,000 a hole?” he laughed.
Higgs ultimately set off in the first of six foursomes with TaylorMade’s Vice President of Product Creation, Brian Bazzel, who plays to a +1 handicap. “Baz” was about to get the full Higgs experience.
Just an hour earlier, at the launch of their new P790 irons and MG3 wedges in a nearby conference room, Bazzel talked about how the company is trying to connect to the weekend warriors around the globe.
“We’d like to be as relatable as Harry Higgs,” Bazzel quipped. The room nodded, knowing exactly what Bazzel meant.
Higgs’ enthusiasm for his day job no doubt has a lot to do with his journey to the TOUR. It started at SMU, where he was a teammate of Bryson DeChambeau. A few years on mini-tours followed. Flushed with experience and hungry to get out of that grind, he won the money list on the PGA TOUR Latinoamerica circuit in 2018, then won on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2019 to graduate to the PGA TOUR for the 2019-20 season.
His two years on TOUR have showcased a distinct personality. PGA TOUR players are the envy of millions, but the pressure and week-to-week grind can quickly harden a player and turn him cynical. That’s one reason Higgs’ enthusiasm is so relatable. He knows he’s living the dream. But there is a serious side to Higgs that is often overshadowed. He has a will to win that he’s learning to mix with his light-hearted side.
Bazzel saw it that day at Bandon Dunes. This was nothing more than a casual match, but it didn’t matter after Bazzel shot 5 under on the front and Higgs made the turn trailing by a couple of strokes.
“Then things changed,” Bazzel says. “He was still as fun and likeable as ever but he kind of flipped a switch. He brought me over a water at the turn and said, ‘OK. You’re going to need this. You better hydrate.’ He was starting to turn the screws and I knew he was ready to step it up.”Harry Higgs during a TaylorMade event last month. (Courtesy of TaylorMade)
Higgs did just that and Bazzel made a few small errors that cost him. It came down to the final hole with Higgs stacking the pressure on his opponent by getting in the house first, leaving Bazzel a 15-footer just to preserve a tie.
“I thought I had him. But when it counted, he showcased why he’s a very successful TOUR pro,” Bazzel said.
Higgs chuckles when asked to recall the match. But it does provide an insight into why he thinks he’s made it on TOUR while many of his peers have not.
“One of the big differences between the thousands of guys that don't make it but are extremely skilled versus the guys that do maintain some longevity of success on the PGA TOUR is having a bit of (expletive) in them,” Higgs said. “There will come times where you have an opportunity to do what you've always dreamed of and all of the cliches come out. Is the moment too big? Are you going to run and hide? Or no matter how uncomfortable you are and how stressful it feels is there something you can go to that brings out some killer in you that refuses to not take advantage of this opportunity.
“It's kind of defined as a refusal to lose no matter who it is, no matter the situation. At Bandon, it got to a point where I was like, OK, I don't like losing to anyone. I don't care who you are, I don't care if you're an 18 handicap. I want to beat everybody that I play with.
“I don't care how my swing feels, or how I’m shaping it, or where I’m sore. At some point you shut everything else off and just make the ball go where it needs to go. You have to take pleasure in the chance to hit a shot that will define the win or loss.”
Higgs might have reeled in Bazzel, but he is still chasing that big TOUR win. He takes solace in the fact he’s always had a crack at it when the moment comes. A final-round 70 in difficult conditions at Kiawah Island helped Higgs finish fourth at the PGA, his first career major. It earned him a spot in next year’s Masters.
Higgs knows he’ll need his trash-talking best against Mickelson next week but perhaps afterwards he’ll ask the veteran about another of the learning curves that’s come with his time on TOUR: dealing with his instant popularity inside golf circles after years of toiling in anonymity.
In his rookie season, Higgs burst into the consciousness of TOUR fans with a runner-up at the Bermuda Championship in the fall and a T9 at the Farmers Insurance Open in late January.
But his season tapered off and he missed four cuts leading into his first FedExCup Playoffs. A T11 at THE NORTHERN TRUST pushed his season to the BMW Championship and ultimately a 55th-place finish in the season-long race, however.
This season started with a bang, as he was runner up at the Fortinet Championship with an incredible albatross. The shot, and his “Are you not entertained?” celebration, went viral.
Shot of the Day
Harry Higgs’ albatross is the Shot of the Day
It wasn’t the first time. Social media also was abuzz when he rode his club like a bull on TPC Scottsdale’s famous 16th hole and his re-creation of the “Dreams Challenge,” where Higgs sang Fleetwood Mac’s hit while riding a golf cart and drinking cranberry juice. That video drew millions of views.
Popularity has its pros and cons. Higgs is constantly being asked by fans to put on a show. But he’s not a trained seal. All his highlights have been natural emotions in the moment.
“I never thought I would have to manage just being myself, but with more attention and more eyeballs comes maybe more expectation,” Higgs says. “And the silly things people yell at you can obviously distract from the reason you're really there.”
When form starts to dip, like it has again this season, it becomes even harder to always be smiling. Higgs enters this week’s Wyndham Championship at 88th in the FedExCup.
The early runner-up and the T4 in his major debut at Kiawah Island have already helped secure passage to another season but in the six starts since the PGA, Higgs has five missed cuts and finished 68th at the Memorial Tournament.
The trip to Bandon Dunes came at the perfect time as he looked to reconnect with his true self and have a laugh again.
“The inner war remains trying to be serious because I want to achieve my goals but I also want to be myself, which for some God knows reason people have taken a liking to,” he said. “I know I perform my best when I shake off frustrations and get back to who and what I am.
“I haven't had a great year but I've had moments that have been great. Now I would like to improve my position at Wyndham and make it a little easier to get to the BMW Championship as I push towards my goal of the TOUR Championship.
“I played well in the Playoffs last year and when the lights are shining a little brighter, I've had success in the past, so I figure let’s do that again. I’m looking to bring out the killer I talked about.”
Perhaps Phil, and the rest of us, should beware the smiling assassin.