Brian Harman hunting major breakthrough after surging clear at Open Championship
American Brian Harman responded to missing the cut in the Masters in April by returning to his farm in Georgia and killing a pig and a turkey.
Three months later, the left-hander carved out a commanding five-shot lead over home favourite Tommy Fleetwood at the halfway stage of the 151st Open Championship at Royal Liverpool.
Harman carded four birdies in a row on the front nine and holed from 15 feet for an eagle on the 18th to complete a flawless second round of 65 and post a 10-under-par halfway total of 132.
That matched those recorded at Hoylake by Rory McIlroy in 2014 and Tiger Woods in 2006, although both men were 12 under on their way to lifting the Claret Jug as the course was a par-72 at the time.
It also made Harman the first player to lead the Open by five shots after 36 holes since Louis Oosthuizen in 2010, the South African going on to win by seven at St Andrews.
Fleetwood, who must have been taken aback to start his second round so far behind after sharing the overnight lead, closed to within four when he birdied the 14th and 15th, but dropped a shot on the next and eventually signed for a hard-fought 71.
That at least got the 32-year-old from Southport into the final group with Harman for Saturday’s third round, with Austria’s Sepp Straka a shot behind Fleetwood following a brilliant 67 which included six birdies and a bogey in his last seven holes.
Nine years after lifting the Claret Jug at Hoylake, McIlroy heads into the weekend nine behind Harman after a closing birdie saw him add a second round of 70 to his opening 71.
Speaking after his stunning 65, Harman happily explained the story behind his unusual reaction to his Masters missed cut, laughing off a query about whether the local livestock would be safe this weekend.
“Sheep don’t taste as good as the turkeys do I would imagine,” Harman said.
“I’ve been a hunter my entire life. I enjoy the strategy of it. Yeah, we eat a lot of wild meat at my house, so I enjoy butchering, and I do a lot of hunting.”
Harman, who is bidding to become just the third left-hander to win the Open after Bob Charles (1963) and Phil Mickelson (2013), admitted he owed his position to a “hot putter” and would need to work hard on not getting ahead of himself this weekend.
“I’m just not trying to get too caught up in it. It’s just golf. I think when I held the 54-hole lead at the US Open (in 2017) I just probably thought about it too much.
“It’s hard for me. I’ve always struggled with trying to predict the future and trying to forecast what’s going to happen. I’ve just tried to get really comfortable just not knowing.
Harman made his Open debut at Hoylake in 2014 and finished 26th, but missed the cut on his next four appearances before finishing 19th in 2021 and sixth last year.
“I came over early for the Scottish Open last year and I think I beat two people; played horrible,” he said. “Then played bad the first day at St Andrews and was like, ‘Golly, I love coming over here but I’m getting my teeth kicked in’.
“I had a really nice back nine in the second round, made the cut by a couple and then played really well on the weekend.
“I’d say it was nice to finally turn the corner last year. This is my eighth Open Championship and before last year I’d never really even been anywhere close to in contention or even doing halfway decent.”
On a day which saw play momentarily disrupted by a Just Stop Oil protest on the 17th green, Fleetwood thanked the vociferous crowds for their support, adding: “From the get-go they were amazing, loud and right behind me.
“It’s an amazing feeling playing in front of them. There’s another two days to go and hopefully I can stick in there right until the end.
“If you had asked me before the start if I wanted to be in the final group on Saturday I’d have taken it, no matter how far I’m behind.”
The halfway cut fell at three over par and world number one Scottie Scheffler made it with nothing to spare thanks to a fortunate bounce from the edge of a greenside bunker on the 18th setting up a tap-in birdie.
Defending champion Cameron Smith also needed to birdie the last to survive, but went one better with a spectacular approach from 232 yards which finished 16 inches from the hole for an eagle.
Justin Rose, Shane Lowry, Phil Mickelson, Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson were among the big names to make an early exit.
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