The Open: Brian Harman wins Claret Jug at Royal Liverpool by six shotson July 23, 2023 at 6:28 pm

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Brian Harman overcomes an early wobble to stroll serenely to his first major title with a six-shot victory at the 151st Open Championship in Hoylake.

-13 B Harman (US); -7 T Kim (Kor), S Straka (Aut), J Day (Aus), J Rahm (Spa); -6 E Grillo (Arg), R McIlroy (NI)
Selected others: -4 M Jordan (Eng), T Fleetwood (Eng); -2 L Canter (Eng), A Fitzpatrick (Eng), T Hatton (Eng); E S Scheffler (US); +1 C Smith (Aus); +4 M Stewart (Sco)
Full leaderboard

A one-under 70 proved more than enough for the American, who finished on 13 under at a rain-soaked Royal Liverpool.

World number three Jon Rahm finished joint second on seven under with Sepp Straka, Tom Kim and Jason Day.

Rory McIlroy ended six under, while Matthew Jordan and Tommy Fleetwood were England’s best, tied on four under.

It has been a fairytale week for Jordan, who was on the Royal Liverpool chipping green at the age of three and became a member aged seven.

The R&A gave him the honour of hitting the opening tee shot on Thursday and he birdied the last to card a one-under-par final round on Sunday that lifted him into the top 10 and qualifies him for next year’s Open at Royal Troon in Ayrshire.

“Normally I just see players on TV and think ‘that’d be cool if it happened to me’,” he told BBC Sport.

“It was just the perfect finish to what has been the most unbelievable week.”

It has also been a fairytale week for Harman. The 36-year-old, ranked 26th in the world, becomes just the third left-hander to win the Claret Jug – emulating Bob Charles in 1963 and Phil Mickelson in 2013.

The victory is just the third in his career, and first since 2017.

And he did it by plotting his way round the links in superb fashion. He only went in two bunkers all week – one of them on the 72nd – holed 59 out of 60 putts from inside 10 feet and had no three putts – statistics that make champions.

“I knew I had a six-shot lead on the 18th, I was ready to putt it down that fairway,” he told BBC Sport.

“To get it done on the biggest stage, it’s what you dream about as a kid.

“I’ve always thought about holding this trophy. From my cold, dead fingers it is going to be tough to get it out of my hands.”

The champion, who pledged to drink “a couple of pints” from the Claret Jug, added: “This golf course was a real test, it was set up so great – even with the weather. The greens were perfect, the golf course was excellent.

“I couldn’t be happier to be the champion. To all the fans, all the nice words, and all the fans back home tooting me on I appreciate it so much. Thank you.”

Harman’s lead never dropped below three despite bogeys on the second and fifth holes, the latter coming after he drove his ball into a gorse bush, seeing him drop to 10 under.

At that point Rahm, who had birdied the fifth, was his closest challenger.

Harman responded magnificently with successive birdies on the sixth and seventh holes to reassert his dominance, while world number three Rahm stumbled with a bogey on the ninth.

But for most of the day, Harman was out of sight. Those behind were jousting for second.

Straka birdied the 16th to get to eight under, the lowest of any of those challenging. Around the same time Harman was dropping a shot on the short 13th, with his only missed putt from inside 10 feet of the week.

However, once again the American responded with successive birdies to stamp out any final hope for the chasing pack.

Straka bogeyed the last to post a 69 and join South Korean Kim, who had four birdies and an eagle in a four-under 67, the joint lowest round of the day.

Rahm birdied the last to climb into a share of second, alongside Australia’s Day who had four birdies and two bogeys in his 69 as he crept up the leaderboard to record his best finish in an Open Championship.

Cameron Young, who started the day as Harman’s nearest challenger, faded with a 73 and five-under total, while Viktor Hovland also shot a 73 to end three under.

‘I can’t be too frustrated’

McIlroy had three successive birdies from the third to get to joint second on six under, but a bogey on the 10th deflated both the Northern Irishman and his thousands of followers, who were huddled under umbrellas as the rain lashed down all afternoon on the Wirral peninsula.

“It was a solid performance,” said the world number two who finished as the highest placed UK player in joint sixth. “I improved on my score every day and felt like I putted better.

“I got off to a really good start but it’s just hard to keep that going – as you can see from the leaderboard no-one was going low.

“Most times I tee it up, I’m right there. I can’t sit here and be too frustrated,” added the winner of last week’s Scottish Open.

McIlroy closed with a 68 to record a 20th top-10 finish in a major since winning when The Open last visited Royal Liverpool in 2014.

Only 10 players have won majors with more time elapsed between them than the eight years and 347 days from McIlroy’s 2014 US PGA win to this Sunday at Hoylake.

Julius Boros holds the record with 11 years and nine days between his US Open wins in 1952 and 1963.

Home favourite Fleetwood began the week on top of the leaderboard after a five-under 66 in round one.

The 32-year-old, who is from 30 miles up the Merseyside coast in Southport, followed that with two level-par rounds and was enjoying a bogey-free Sunday until he stepped on to the 17th tee on six under.

The short par-three hole has been under a great deal of scrutiny this week for its penal run-off areas and bunkers and Fleetwood fell foul of it, flying the green with his tee shot and ending up with a ruinous triple-bogey six.

A birdie at the last was greeted with gusto by those gathered in the stands, but his quest for a first major victory goes on.

Michael Stewart ended as Scotland’s highest finisher. He was two off the lead after an opening 68 on Thursday and arrived on Sunday at one under par. But a closing 76 saw him slide down the leaderboard to end four over.

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