It's now officially British Open week, as Brian Harman earned the final berth into the field at Royal Liverpool by winning the John Deere Classic Sunday afternoon in Illinois. It was the first career win for Harman, who had never even led after a single round on the PGA Tour before this weekend.
On a course where there's always scores in the low 60s available, Harman needed to maintain a streaky pace over the final 18 holes. He did just that on Sunday, holding off John Deere Classic legends Zach Johnson and Steve Stricker and posting a final round 66 to win by a shot. He spent his Sunday loop in the final group with Stricker, who had won it three straight times before Johnson and then Jordan Spieth took the reins the last two years.
Harman picked up an eagle on just his second hole of the day to quickly answer an early move by Johnson, who in addition to the 2012 win now has three runner-up finishes at event that draws such a large home crowd from Iowa. There were some nerves exposed for Harman on his front nine, which included a missed putt from inside two feet early in his round and a sloppy bogey at the fifth hole. It was looking like he'd go out with a mediocre front nine 34, but then he poured a birdie putt in from almost 30 feet to post a red number as he made the turn.
That got everything back on track for his final nine, and he had it locked up by the 16th hole. Johnson continued to push him, however, and made sure Harman would need to get above 20-under in order to get that first career win. He responded with a birdie at the 10th, and then three straight red numbers on holes 14 through 16. The birdie on the par-3 16th hole gave him a two-shot cushion and some breathing room to play it conservatively over the final two holes. With the hole playing just over 150 yards, Harman dropped one on the front edge of the green in a perfect position for birdie.
Johnson was already helplessly in the clubhouse, playing a few groups ahead of Harman and the nerves went away down the stretch for the first-time winner and now British Open competitor. He'd drop a shot on the final hole as he played things extra safe up around the green with a two-shot lead. There weren't the hole-out fireworks we got from Jordan Spieth last year, but this was again a competitive and good pre-Open event out in the heartland.
While this is his signature win to date, Harman is not exactly a no-name. He's a solid prospect, who had won a U.S. Junior Amateur championship and competed on multiple Walker Cup teams. Now he's the 156th player in the field at Hoylake, and fortunately, he had his passport on him out in the Quad Cities this week. He's off to Royal Liverpool.
Here are the final results from the week at TPC Deere Run:
|Place||Player||Score||Round 1||Round 2||Round 3||Round 4||Total|
|T7||Bo Van Pelt||-16||67||69||67||65||268|
|T23||Charles Howell III||-11||66||68||67||72||273|
|T37||Davis Love III||-9||69||70||67||69||275|
|T45||Brendon de Jonge||-8||65||75||65||71||276|