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Rahm Surges, Harman Still Leads Open Championship at Royal Liverpool


Rahm Surges, Harman Still Leads Open Championship at Royal Liverpool

—by Jay Flemma, Golf News Net—

Two-time major champion Jon Rahm of Spain fired a tournament low and Royal Liverpool Golf Club record 63 in the third round of the 151st Open Championship to surge into contention, but leader Brian Harman continued his unflappable play carding a 69 for a three-day total of 12-under and a five-shot lead over Cameron Young. Rahm stands alone in third at 6-under. A multinational galaxy of stars are at 7-under:  Norway’s Viktor Hovland, France’s Antione Rozner, Australia’s Jason Day, Austria’s Sepp Straka, and England’s Tommy Fleetwood.

If he wants to hoist the Ckaret Jug, Harman’s gonna have to go out tomorrow and kill more foreigners than General Patton, (or maybe Jack Nicklaus at the ’86 Masters? I get confused….)

Rahm’s clean card gem – no bogeys, eight birdies, including four consecutive from holes nine through 12 and then a burst of three more in the final four holes – was especially impressive given rainy conditions and lush rough. He is the most likely threat to Harman should the leader falter.

“That’s the best round I’ve played on a links golf course ever, he admitted. “Starting on 11 everything became downwind, and it became a lot easier; the wind conditions is what made the course change a little bit. 11 through 14 was playing straight in off the left the first few days and it was down off the right today, so it was a much, much easier stretch of holes.”

Rahm missed some short putts early in the round but held tough. At the par-3 9th, the putter finally awoke, and Rahm made birdie with a winding 22 footer. That opened the floodgates. After a gargantuan, Rahm-esque drive on 10, he lasered an 8-iron to six inches for a kick-in birdie. An even longer tee shot on 12 – 386 yards according to Shotlink – Rahm chipped to within six inches for a second consecutive tap-in and third straight birdie.

More 350-yard drives followed; Rahm leads the field for the week in thst statistic:  throwing thunderbolts with both hands, and adding lightning flashes added from the putter for good measure. On 16, Rahm rolled in a 30-foot up-and-down putt from across the green that ignited a roar heard from Liverpool all the way to Troon, Scotland, host of next year’s Open. He is also solo 6th for the week in putting for the tournament. You drive for show and putt for dough:  Rahm is doing both.

“I got really lucky on the angle,” he admitted sheepishly. “It was a fairly straight putt. It had a little bit more pace than I would have liked, but I think it would have maybe gone three feet by the hole, but found the hole.”

Then some Einstein in the press tent told Rahm that Seve Ballesteros never shot 63 in a major, and asked him what he made of that and to put his own round in perspective. Rahm gave the question the answer it deserved.

“I’d rather win three times and never shoot 63.”

Nevertheless, it’s still Brian Harman’s tournament to lose. He takes the same five-shot lead into the final round that he enjoyed at the start of the day. Though two bogeys in the first two holes could have heralded a collapse, Harman righted the ship with a mix of straight driving and clutch finishing.

“It would have been really easy to let the wheels start spinning and really kind of let it get out of control, but I just kind of doubled down on my routine and knew I was hitting it well, even though I hadn’t hit any good shots yet,” Harman stated. Staying patient out there is paramount. Sometimes it’s a lot harder than others. But really proud of the way that I hung in there.”

A two-putt birdie on the par-5 fifth stopped the bleeding, then a pin-seeking 6-oron on nine left him a mere four feet for birdie. Suddenly his lead that had dwindled to two at one point was back to four. Harman carded two more birdies back-to-back at the short par-4 12th and the long par-3 13th, the former with a dicey up-and-down from 405 yards and the latter with another long, 33-foot putt a cross the green. Harman ranks third in fairways hit on the week and first in putting, averaging a fiery 26 putts per round.

“I think today it would probably be statistically the worst putting I’ve had this week,” he surmised surprisingly. “But yeah, I’ve had a really nice week putting. That’s kind of been my M.O. throughout my career, just kind of a really good short game, good putter. Yeah, I expect to hole putts. These greens have been fantastic, and I’ve had a good line for them so far.”

Who needs a 350-yard driving average? Who has to stand 6’4” or be built like Bryson DeChambeau during his Incredible Hulk phase? The sporting press may be making Hobbit jokes at Harman’s expense, but Ben Hogan was short, and he won ten majors.

And yes, Harman had to endure cringe-inducing “questions” from some hack from furthest nether-reaches of the media center. Breaking every rule of journalism by hinting to the subject of the story (Harman) should choose his own nickname, Harman refused. He was then asked what he thought of proffered names like “The Butcher of Hoylake.”
“I like that one better than “the Harmanator.” That made me chuckle. Someone texted me that yesterday. That’s funny.”

No, it’s not Brian. You’re just being polite. It’s neither funny nor clever. Branding department! Clean up on Aisle 2!

It’s too early for nicknames, five shot lead or not. Five shots is one bad decision and one bad swing, then suddenly you’re in a dogfight when two swings prior it was a cake walk.

Golfers dream about winning majors their whole entire life. It’s the whole reason they hit balls until it’s too dark. It’s why they put their entire life on hold to practice, making life-long deeply personal sacrifices. And it takes a dedicated team to help you get to the 72nd green Tomorrow, if that’s going to come to fruition, execution and focus are paramount. You don’t win the Open Championship by playing safe or nursing a lead, and Rahm already has two majors to his credit, the 2021 U.S. Open and the 2023 Masters. Harman has to endure the crucible of a final round. If he can, his name will join immortals – Jones, Hagen, Woods, McIlroy and over 100 years of others. That’s who Royal Liverpool crowns at the Open – immortals. That is the commitment the Claret Jug commands.