CEDAR RAPIDS — After three days of play at the U.S. Open last month in Wisconsin, many golf fans were left asking one question: “Who is Brian Harman?”
It’s not their fault — many golf fans just hadn’t seen much of him. He had only won two PGA Tour events in his career, one of them being the 2014 John Deere Classic.
On a national scale, Harman wasn’t well known.
The U.S. Open helped changed that.
Harman held a one-stroke lead after 54 holes at Erin Hills, entering the final day at 12-under par. And even though he couldn’t hold the lead — falling behind Brooks Koepka’s 5-under round to win the major tournament by four strokes — Harman certainly made his mark.
While that may have shocked some Americans, it didn’t stun Zach Johnson.
“I am the opposite of surprised,” Johnson told The Gazette’s Mike Hlas at the U.S. Open. “What I’ve seen with him is there’s no weakness.”
Eastern Iowa residents will get a chance to see the U.S. Open runner-up in person on Monday, when Harman joins Johnson and more than 20 others at the seventh annual Zach Johnson Foundation Classic. The charity round, held at Elmcrest Country Club in Cedar Rapids, benefits Kids on Course, a nonprofit providing tutoring, enrichment, parent engagement support and health support to children at Grant, Harrison and Van Buren Elementary Schools and Roosevelt and Wilson Middle Schools in Cedar Rapids. Last year, the event raised $1 million for the charity.
Johnson has known Harman for quite some time, and invited him to play in the charity round. In fact, they both live in St. Simons Island, Ga.
“He’s my neighbor. We’re good buddies,” Johnson told Hlas. “We played a lot this year together, both in the offseason at home and practice rounds.”
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Since turning pro after playing in college at Georgia, Harman has had a slow climb to success on tour. He didn’t have his first top-10 finish until 2012 — eight years after turning pro. He took his first third-place finish the next season, but that was only one of his two top-10 finishes that season.
His big year was in 2014, when he beat Johnson at the John Deere Classic and tied for third at the Northern Trust Open. He made the cut 23 times that year, ending the season with a career-high six top-10 finishes and ending 21st in the FedEx Cup standings.
Since that time, though, Harman has struggled. He finished in the top 10 just five times over the next two years. The struggles, he said, weren’t the result of a technical issue. It was mental.
“I was good in high school, good at times at Georgia, but sometime after turning pro I lost my confidence,” Harman told Golf.com in June. “It wasn’t like I lost my swing, but my confidence. And it’s taken me a long time to get it back. And I feel like I have.”
He has certainly shown that he’s confident again. Along with his second-place finish in Wisconsin, Harman won the Wells Fargo Championship this season and tied for third at the CareerBuilder Challenge. He now sits 11th in the FedExCup rankings.
And even though he missed his chance at the U.S. Open, Harman said he doesn’t feel he lost the major, but rather Koepka won the tournament. Regardless, he’s moving on.
He won’t dwell on the past, but rather is keeping his confidence high en route to perhaps his best season ever as a pro. He’ll no doubt enjoy the round on Monday with Johnson and others, but then he’s right back on a mission, preparing for the British Open next week.
“I put (the U.S. Open) to bed,” Harman told the Golf Channel before the Travelers Championship on June 22. “Once the tournament is over with, it’s over for me. Obviously I would have loved to win (the U.S. Open) but all my focus is on this week and trying to play well.”
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