Brian Harman fires 65, takes commanding lead at The Open

Brian Harman drained a 15-foot eagle putt at the last hole for a five-shot lead during the second round of The 151st Open Championship on Friday in Hoylake, England.

Published : Jul 22, 2023 08:07 IST , England - 4 MINS READ

United States’ Brian Harman in action.
United States’ Brian Harman in action. | Photo Credit: AP

United States’ Brian Harman in action. | Photo Credit: AP

Brian Harman drained a 15-foot eagle putt at the last hole for an exclamation point on a bogey-free 65, catapulting him to a five-shot lead during the second round of The 151st Open Championship on Friday in Hoylake, England.

Harman started the day one off the pace at 4 under. He walked to the clubhouse 10-under 132 at Royal Liverpool Golf Club, which barely challenged Harman’s penchant for fairway-finding and clutch putting.

The lefty from Georgia zipped past one of the first-round co-leaders, Englishman Tommy Fleetwood, who carded an even-par 71 on Friday afternoon to sit in second place at 5 under.

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The course toughened up in the afternoon with windy, rainy weather on the horizon this weekend, but Sepp Straka of Austria shot a 67 to move into third place at 4 under and Australian Jason Day’s 67 got him into a tie for fourth at 3 under.

Harman rolled in three long birdie putts at Nos. 2-4, then hit the pin with an eagle chip at the par-5 fifth hole and tapped in a fourth straight birdie. Harman then saved 12 straight pars -- including a chip-in at No. 12 -- before driving the green in two at the par-5 18th.

“Made two really nice pars on 16 and 17,” Harman said. “I think that’s just as important, to where I felt kind of freed up on 18, and I made probably my two best swings of the day and got up there to 12, 15 feet for eagle.”

Harman, 36, is searching for his first major victory. He tied for sixth at The Open last year at St Andrews and tied for second at the 2017 U.S. Open. He said the key this time around will be not to get caught up in the moment.

“It’s just golf,” Harman said. “I’ve probably -- I think when I held the 54-hole lead at the U.S. Open, I just probably thought about it too much. Just didn’t focus on getting sleep and eating right. So that would be my focus this weekend.”

After playing the front nine 1 over par, Fleetwood got a boost when a 58-foot putt at No. 10 dropped for his first birdie of the day. After a bogey-birdie-birdie-bogey stretch at Nos. 13-16, Fleetwood scrambled for par on the last two holes.

Fleetwood, who grew up 30 miles from the course, said earlier this week that he’s envisioned winning this major “a million times.” He will have the crowd behind him Saturday when he plays with Harman in the final pairing.

“He’s a long way in front,” Fleetwood said. “Of course there’s a long way to go, but still, for myself and everybody else playing, it’s just do your thing, play one shot at a time.”

Straka came out of nowhere late in the afternoon with a 5-under 31 on the back nine. The two-time PGA Tour winner birdied Nos. 12-15, made bogey at No. 16 and bounced back with birdie putts of 24 and 17 1/2 feet on the last two holes.

“Game is coming into shape nicely,” said Straka, who won the John Deere Classic earlier this month. “I’ve been hitting the ball pretty well and then starting a couple weeks ago the putter came around, too, and hopefully I can keep that momentum going.”

Day, the former World No. 1, was tied at 3 under with fellow Australian Min Woo Lee (68 Friday) and India’s Shubhankar Sharma (71).

Three-time major champ Jordan Spieth made three birdies going out and three bogeys coming in to wind up where he started the day, 2 under for the championship. He was tied for seventh with Cameron Young (68), Spain’s Adrian Otaegui (73) and Emiliano Grillo of Argentina (74).

Grillo and South African amateur Christo Lamprecht, who shared the first-round lead with Fleetwood, went backwards. Lamprecht shot a 79 to fall to 3 over, making the cut on the number.

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland birdied No. 18 for a 1-under 70 to climb to 1 under for the championship. In the same group, Jon Rahm of Spain bogeyed the 18th, also turned in a 70 and sat at 2 over par.

The top 70 and ties made the cut at 3 over par. World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler birdied the final hole to salvage a 75 and make the cut on the number, along with the likes of Brooks Koepka, Rickie Fowler and Patrick Cantlay. Defending champion Cameron Smith of Australia landed his second shot at No. 18 just 16 inches from the pin and tapped in for eagle to get to 2 over.

Notable players who missed the cut included Collin Morikawa (4 over), Tony Finau (6 over), Shane Lowry of Ireland (7 over), Phil Mickelson (9 over), Justin Thomas (11 over) and Dustin Johnson (13 over).

Australia’s Travis Smyth (8 over) won’t play the weekend, but he made the first hole-in-one of the championship at the new par-3 17th hole. With a 9-iron from 132 yards away, Smyth’s tee shot took one long hop and rattled into the cup.

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