Sun. May 19th, 2024

‘I used to hate links golf’

By admin May1,2024

Brian Harman is looking forward to the “refreshing” challenge of returning to links golf when he defends his Open Championship title at Royal Troon in July, despite admitting he initially “hated” it.

The American is not on his own.

A host of legendary players, including five-time Open champion Tom Watson, did not immediately fall in love with the coastal courses that are often buffeted by strong winds, feature penal bunkers and throw up erratic bounces.

The American said he is yet to visit Troon, the Ayrshire course that will this year host its 10th Open, and jokingly asked the assembled media for “any tips”.

One offered “stay out of the bunkers”, not that Harman will need reminding, given he was particularly adept at avoiding sand when winning by six shots at Royal Liverpool last year, only going in two traps all week.

However, he did recall his chastening links golf baptism at neighbouring Prestwick, which hosted the inaugural Open in 1860.

“The first time I played links golf I hated it – it ate me to pieces,” said the 37-year-old, who lost all four of his matches as Europe thrashed the United States in the 2006 Palmer Cup.

“I kept trying to hit lob wedges around the greens and the weather was bad. I got whipped, lost all of my matches.”

Harman did not return to links golf until making his Open Championship debut in 2014 at Royal Liverpool and said it was then that he “just absolutely fell in love with it”.

“I had a stretch where I missed four cuts in a row at The Open and just couldn’t quite get it figured out but I knew that I really enjoyed the golf even when I wasn’t playing great,” he added.

“It’s a thinking-man’s game. You have to be able to hit every single type of golf shot.

“There are lots of different ways to be successful and that’s something that’s lacking in our game week to week and I wish we had a little bit more of it.

“It’s refreshing to play hard golf that’s not just a one-stop shop.”

When Harman won at Royal Liverpool, he said he suffered “unrepeatable” abuse during the third round, when he was playing with England’s Tommy Fleetwood, who was born just up the coast in Southport.

He was also booed on the first tee as he started his final round, although later said that made him more determined to win.

However, the third left-hander to win the Claret Jug after Bob Charles and Phil Mickelson said he found the majority of fans at The Open “knowledgeable” and a “joy to play in front of”.

“Do I expect hostility? I have no idea,” he said. “I’ll be ready for whatever. I’ve always really enjoyed playing golf in front of the fans over there because they understand what a good shot is. They understand what a bad shot is. They get it.”

There will be 10,000 fewer fans at Royal Troon than the 260,000 that were at the Wirral Peninsula course last year. But the 250,000 sell-out for the 152nd Championship – up 70,000 from when it last hosted in 2016 – will be a record for an Open staged in Scotland outside of St Andrews.



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