American Brian Harman fired a final round five-under-par, 66 to secure his first victory on the PGA TOUR at the John Deere Classic. Harman ran over the TPC Deere Run by posting 22-under 262 to defeat 2012 champion Zach Johnson by one shot. Jhonattan Vegas and Jerry Kelly shared third place two shots further back.
This was the first time that Harman had every slept on a lead, let alone a 54-hole lead in his PGA TOUR career, but he left no doubt that he belonged on this level after his 66 on Sunday. Playing with three-time champion Steve Stricker and beginning the day with a one-shot lead, Harman looked like the trusty veteran in the final pair. After two eagles on Saturday, Harman bagged another on No. 2 Sunday to open up a three-shot lead and he never looked back. The worst he did was share the top spot on Sunday but after birdies on Nos. 14, 15 and 16, he slammed the door shut.
Harman was successful this week but he got some help from the most unlikely source, a high school golf coach. After his caddy, Scott Tway walked off during after seven holes in round one with food poisoning, the Good Samaritan carried Harman’s bag for the final 11 holes. Harman birdied six of the final eight holes on that round to post his 63 and get his week off to a great, yet bizarre, start.
For the week, Harman was T1 in GIR and T8 in fairways but that shouldn’t be surprising for a winner at the JDC as the fairways and greens are quite large. The key this week was avoiding bogeys and racking up par-breakers. Harman only made six bogeys on the week and the last one was immaterial; he also racked up 22 birdies and three eagles and that was the key to his success this week. It didn’t hurt to open with 63 and close 65-66 either! It took 88 starts but this first victory gets him a two-year exemption on TOUR, invites to the WGC-BI and PGA Championship plus qualified him for next week’s Open Championship at Hoylake, his first-ever appearance across the pond.
Entering the week, gamers should have been cool on the former Bulldog as he was coming off three event stretch of T42, MC and MC. But, if there was going to be a week to take a chance on ANY flier, this was the week because an easy course giving up buckets of birdies can get players back on track quickly. Season-long gamers were rewarded that they invested in an up-and-comer who racked up 30 starts in 2012 and 29 last season. The lefty has always had a penchant for going low as evidenced by his 61 at Honda but this was the first season that he’s really started racking up top 10s and top 25s. His previous best finish on TOUR was T3 twice, 2012 at Wyndham and earlier this year at Riviera. His strength is his short game and putting and a penchant for making birdies so it’s no wonder he’s holding the trophy after this week!
Moving forward, gamers need to be aware that following his other five top 10s this season Harman has nothing better than T42. I wouldn’t immediately jump to the conclusion that he’s going to be Brendon Todd for the rest of the season. His win this week deserves respect but I wouldn’t rearrange my team/lineup for the rest of the season just yet because outside of the RBC Canadian, Reno-Tahoe and Wyndham, the other events, WGC, PGA and four FedExCup Playoff events are big-boy events.
With his victory, his first on TOUR, Harman collects $845,000 and 500 FedExCup points.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won 24 of 35 events in 2013-14. Harris English, Jimmy Walker (THREE), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed (TWO), Scott Stallings, Kevin Stadler, Bubba Watson (TWO), Russell Henley, Chesson Hadley, Matt Every, Matt Kuchar, J.B. Holmes, Brendon Todd, Ben Crane, Kevin Streelman and Brian Harman have won for the USA.
Adam Scott, Matt Jones, Steven Bowditch, John Senden and Jason Day, all Australians, have cashed five victories. Hideki Matsuyama joined Seung-yul Noh as the Asian representatives and Martin Kaymer now has a play pal as Justin Rose joins the European effort. Angel Cabrera flies the flag for South America.
S.Y. Noh, Steven Bowditch, Matt Every, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Stadler, Chesson Hadley Matt Jones, Brendon Todd, Hideki Matsuyama and now Brian Harman are the first-time winners this season. There were 12, first-timers in 40 events last year and we’ve had 10 in 35 events so far in 2014.
Only 17 of the 38, 54-hole leaders went on to win last year in full-field, stroke play events. I’m always trying to figure out if this is a trend or not. In 2013-14, 17 of 34 leaders have gone on to win as Harman ran away from the field late in the afternoon.
Jordan Spieth tried to join Steve Stricker as a repeat winner at TPC Deere Run but his opening round 71 dug too big of a hole. Nothing wrong with his T7 though!
There were no 59 this week but Scott Brown’s 61 on Saturday had everyone’s attention. #gottagolowYo
For the fifth time in the last six years, the winning score was 20-under or lower. Jordan Spieth’s 19-under last year was the highest score in this stretch. #golower
This was the first event in three where a playoff was not required. That’s what happens with birdies on Nos. 14, 15 and 16!
Harman will look to join Phil Mickelson and nine others that have won on TOUR the week before a major championship and then have gone on to win the following week. Justin Rose, winner in his last two events worldwide will also be lumped into this category after his win at Royal Aberdeen on the European Tour.
Jimmy Walker, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Martin Kaymer remain the multiple winners on TOUR this season.
Young Guns Versus Prime Time Versus Old Guys
Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and has since added two more wins to lead the FedExCup standings. He has been joined by Ryan Moore (30) in Malaysia, Zach Johnson (37) at Kapalua, Kevin Stadler (33), at WMPO and Bubba Watson (35), joined them at Riviera. Matt Every (30), Steven Bowditch (30) and Matt Jones (33), all first-timers, flew the flag before Watson picked up victory No. 2 of the year at Augusta. Since the first major, Matt Kuchar (37), J.B. Holmes (32), Adam Scott (33), Ben Crane (38), Kevin Streelman (35) and Justin Rose, 33, add to the prime-timers trophy case.
Scott Stallings (28), Patrick Reed TWICE (23), Chris Kirk (28), Webb Simpson (28), Dustin Johnson (29), Harris English (24), Jason Day (26) and Russell Henley (24) Seung-Yul Noh (22), Martin Kaymer TWICE (29), Brendon Todd (28) and Hideki Matsuyama (22) and Harman, 27, are the twenty-somethings who have made large noise this year.
Australian John Senden (42) FINALLY has some company in the winner’s circle this year for the old folks as Cabrera, 44, made it a two-some last week. Steve Stricker, 47, began the day one shot back on a course he owns and made ONE birdie on Sunday. One. Uno. Sigh.