Brian Harman speaks like a man who has come to understand his past. That’s why he can tell you about the person who signed all those signatures.
He was in two thousand – in any race in any city. The difference didn’t matter because it was always the same. After finishing the round, he stops at the score booth and heads to the clubhouse. That’s, necessarily, what fans can expect from hanging on ropes, hanging hats or pin flags or who-knows-what. Their faces were tense, they begged him – or anyone, really, who was playing in that PGA Tour event – to come and sign it. Of course, Harman does the right thing. He wanders in, takes the cape off Sharpie and forces it. Maybe he shook his head. “doesn’t matter.” Maybe the corner of his mouth is pushed up into something that looks like a smile.
But inside? Oh, that heat. The bad kind. A lid that vibrates on the jar. “In me, I will be, why did you want my text? I am an intermediate tour player. I didn’t do anything. I’m not arguing. I’m not one of those guys.
All those years. All those letters. He’s always rolling “B” into “R” and writing anything he can collect. It was a reminder that the name on the paper did not match what was intended.
He continues to talk…
“To be honest, I was embarrassed. I was ashamed of my career.”
Harman is at a point where he can say the harshest things out loud because he’s only nine weeks removed from his next big moment of self-revelation. Still working to process it all. At age 36, after winning two PGA Tour events in 343 professional careers, he won the 2023 Open Championship at Royal Liverpool.
The numbers don’t lie… @HarmanBrian is ready to make an impact in Rome! pic.twitter.com/25VBgdV3Vs
— Ryder Cup USA (@RyderCupUSA) September 23, 2023
It happened quickly. Harman missed the Masters this year. He missed the cut at the PGA Championship. He was tied for 43rd at the US Open. Another year on my resume everyone stopped reading long ago. He was what he always was – a very strong PGA Tour player with several million dollars in career earnings and zero notoriety. He moved to Royal Liverpool and was respectably ranked 26th in the world. He hasn’t won a race since the 2017 Wells Fargo Championship.
But then everything came together in four days. A gutsy, ripping performance. A six-shot victory. A new world.
Now Harman is preparing to travel to Rome for his first Ryder Cup appearance. This is a strangely unexpected twist on a career that was nearing its tipping point. Harman could well have played out these later years of his career in relative anonymity and retired to a 1,000-acre farm in rural Georgia. Instead, he is both the oldest player and one of four starters on the 12-man U.S. team. In the year He reached his first career PGA Tour win in 2014 at the John Deere Classic. He defeated runner-up Zach Johnson, who will be captain of the United States this week.
It is not easy to understand a new reality. But he’s trying.
Harman in St. Simons Island, Ga. “We all have our own journeys and different reasons for being in different places,” says Harman, searching for the right words, looking into a converted barn where the family lives. A recent interview. “It’s not always obvious. But now I feel like I’m right where I need to be,” he said.
In what seems like a lifetime ago, Harman was the former No. 1-ranked amateur golfer in the world and an All-American at Georgia, one of college golf’s great powers. He starred on the winning 2005 and 2009 Walker Cup teams and the 2007 Palmer Cup team, playing alongside guys like Anthony Kim, Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fuller. Still, Harman was, without a doubt, the next-big thing in his youth on several levels. He walked through the driving range like a cool breeze. Everyone glanced at him.
This feeling is something Harman pursued for much of the 20s. It’s not just the feeling of knowing that it’s him, but that others are trying to catch him. As he played a moderately successful PGA Tour career, the shadow he cast on himself as a teenager spread long and never missed a beat. He had to win, not just play.
“I used to rhyme, ‘Oh, I was a really good junior golfer,'” says Harman. But you finally realize, well, you’re not 16 anymore.
The game, as it does, is over. In the year After turning pro in 2009, Harman grew up watching players suddenly win trophies at PGA Tour events. Over time, new men—younger, stronger, taller—appeared and began to win. There was no way to stop what was coming. He was trying to slow the rising seas with sandbags. He was famous for being “brutal” and “bulldog”. It’s all kind language for a little guy who fights like hell.
Today, looking back, Harman admits something no one wants to admit. Ugly things.
“I hate the way I felt when I saw some of my friends win—the way it made me feel,” he said. “I’m not proud of it. I still feel guilty about it to this day.”
The problem with jealousy is compounds. For Harman, as the years went by, he settled down, settled down, built up, and settled down. Even when one of his best friends, Harris English, achieved success, Harman struggled not to see it as a reflection of his own weaknesses.
It was spread in him. Worse, it distracted him.
Now he says, “That jealousy will eat you up.”
Harman married his wife Kelly in 2014. Then three children came. The view gradually changed. From his late 20’s, early 30’s, to his mid 30’s – he realized that his teenage expectations would manifest in him as an adult.
Then came another realization.
“I can’t believe I’ve been so embarrassed,” Harman said. “So selfishness. There’s a lot of success for everyone who works for it. Winning and being successful is a result of a person’s inner conflict and hard work and dedication – all the things I love about people.
Harman has understood all this in recent years. Watching Kevin Kisner win the 2021 Wyndham Championship has been an exciting time. He understood what was missing.
It takes something to admit all of this out loud. Harman is far from the only player on tour to be concerned about the ultimate question: why not me? Golf, by its very nature, correlates one’s self-esteem with one’s friends.
It wasn’t until he won his inaugural tournament two months ago that Harman truly understood the weight he carried all those years. The victory was no relief. It was a release. He felt the days and weeks and years of struggle and doubt and pain lift off his shoulders, sweeping across England’s shores. Jeremy Elliott, Harman’s agent and long-time friend, said he saw Harman leave Hoylake “deeply self-aware”.
Returning to action a few weeks later at the St. Jude Championship, Harman took a few practice greens when a player walked by to congratulate him.
“You know, I don’t feel any different,” Harman replied.
“Yes,” said the passerby. “Well, it looks different.”
It does, and it’s made it here. Harman’s Zach Johnson (one of his best friends on the tour) did the US team a favor with a top six-point qualifier. In the year He is the oldest US Ryder Cup starter since 41-year-old Steve Stricker in 2008, and this week he will be in a group room with younger players who have had to swallow their envy and look back on the achievement long ago. While someone like Justin Thomas has been on the tour for years, winning tournaments and capturing early majors, Harman isn’t exactly looking to make a connection. “The truth is, I would absolutely kill to have a career like JT’s,” he says. But the ongoing Ryder Cup experience has come with some perspective. Harman and Thomas have recently become close and suddenly exchange text messages. Recently, Harman sent Thomas a note apologizing for “taking so long” to get to him. Harman knows Max Homa and Colin Moricawan, both of whom could not be more different. Last week, Homa was shocked while listening to the story of Harman being caught in his hand.
“I wanted to meet these people, and this is on me,” Harman said.
For a guy later in his career, Harman sure has a lot to learn. “Transparency is imperative,” he says. It’s been nine weeks, one big, cosmic change, and now he’s one of the boys.
At this time he asked: Blank: Is this proof?
Harman presses his shoulders into a half-knuckle. “Now I hate to say it’s me.”
He said he is a man who has worked to get where he is.
(Image: Eamonn Dalton. Photos: Tracy Wilcox/PGA Tour, Michael Reeves/Getty Images)