Hoylake, England. John Rahm was so eager to start chasing Brian Harman in the final round of the British Open that he was already teeing down at number 1 when the starter said, “Tee, Viktor Hovland.”
Ram stepped aside and waited his turn, but on Sunday he was on a mission to Royal Liverpool. And after five holes – to the cries of “Do it for Seva!” and “Vamos, Rambo!” from the audience – the backlog of the Spaniard from the leader was reduced from six throws per night to three.
It was the closest he or anyone else could get all day.
No player in Harman’s long and varied list of potential threats — from major champions (Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day) to local favorite (Tommy Fleetwood) to up-and-coming talent (Tom Kim) — could challenge the American southpaw on a rainy and miserable day at Hoylake Circuit.
Harman started his round at the age of 12 and finished it at the age of 13. None of the pursuers made it to 9-under.
“This was hard. It was really tough,” said Sepp Straka, who finished second with a score of 7 under par along with Ram, Day and 21-year-old Kim. “It was really hard to be aggressive.
“I take my hat off to Brian because it seemed like he had an incredible round in such conditions, which is hard when you are so far ahead. We really couldn’t make any moves, so it was really hard.”
Probably the most disappointing was Rahm, who failed to replicate his splendid result on Saturday when he scored 63 goals – the best in 13 British Opens held at Royal Liverpool – to move into contention.
On the penultimate pair with Hovland, Ram even got lucky, especially on the fifth hole when he pulled his disc and the ball landed right between a bunch of bushes and into a good lie.
Ram made a 5-foot birdie and 10 minutes later Harman made a scarecrow on the same hole. The gap was three shots. Finally some intrigue on a day that many predicted as a procession?
Not a drop.
Harman hit the next two holes and Ram’s stick pretty much cooled off until a 23-foot birdie hit a 70. A tie for second place joined his Masters win and a tie for 10th at the US Open, making it a strong year in the Majors.
Not that it satisfied him.
“He won by six,” Ram said of Harman. “It’s not like he won by a factor of two or three. He won by six, so none of us could do anything.”
Day started the shot further than Ram and bogey on the third hole after he missed the green on his approach and then missed a 6-foot par shot, ending any realistic chance of a second major title since the 2015 PGA Championship.
However, the second place exceeded all expectations of the Australian. After beating Byron Nelson’s AT&T tournament, he missed three out of four tournaments, including the PGA Championship and the US Open.
“Considering my performance last month wasn’t very good and then obviously I didn’t have a lot of confidence going into the week ahead, being able to finish second in a draw was nice,” Day said.
“But you know,” he added, “I’d like to cut the lead a bit.”
For Straka, it was his best finish at a major, improving his tie to seventh at the PGA Championship this year. The 30-year-old Austrian, who looked set to make his debut at the Ryder Cup in Rome in September, was the last to foul after narrowly missing a tee and falling second.
Then there was Kim, a young South Korean starring again on another big stage after winning twice on the PGA Tour last year.
Playing with an ankle injury, he was tied for the low round of the day at 67, an unlikely after he spooked numbers 1 and 2. He played the last 15 holes in 6-under, the highlight being number 5 heads after hitting from 251 yards to 12 feet.
“It’s just a learning curve, this is my first full year. These guys have been working here for five to more than ten years,” said Kim.
“I really have to put it into perspective and keep working hard to keep playing better. I’ve been working hard this year trying to get back to the competitive feeling at the big events, and it’s great to see the fruits come alive.”
Fleetwood, local hope from the coast, can’t find any magic on the lawn for the second day in a row. His chances of finishing second disappeared in par-3 17th, where he reached 6th in the tournament when he teeed into the sandy wasteland behind the green.
He made a triple and 72 throws, finishing in 10th place. This was his seventh top 10 finish in major tournaments.