Honda: Harman breaks through with record 61

Brian Harman

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Brendon Todd didn’t hesitate when asked to describe Brian Harman, his former Georgia teammate. “Fiery competitor,” Todd said after Harman’s 61 Friday at the Honda Classic, which broke PGA National’s course record by three shots.

Harman has never been one to hide his emotions on the golf course, but the one-time amateur star had been uncharacteristically timid in his rookie season on the PGA Tour. That changed after Harman watched an interview with Sergio Garcia on Thursday night.

“He’s always been one of my favorite players, just the way he goes out and has no fear,” Harman said. “I said, 'You know what? Today I’m not going to play scared anymore. I’m going to go out and I’m going to do the best I can. I’m going to go at every flag, and if it works out great and if no, I’ll catch y’all next week.' ”

Harman started Friday in 107th place after a first-round 73 at PGA National’s Champion course. His 61 vaulted him 105 spots on the leaderboard after the morning wave was complete. He was at 6-under 134, two shots off Tom Gillis’ lead.

Harman wasn’t the only one to go low Friday morning. Gillis shot 64, as did rookie Ted Potter Jr., who’d fired 72 in the first round. Graeme McDowell’s 64 was a nine-shot improvement over his first round. Tiger Woods only managed a 68 after his first-round 71.

Harman’s round started with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2, and an eagle on the third hole after he hit 3-wood to 25 feet on the par-5. He made the turn in 29. A birdie on No. 11 put him 7 under on the day and make 59 a reality on the par-70 Champion course.

Harman bogeyed the next hole, but birdied Nos. 14-16 with putts of 6, 2 and 13 feet. His 2-foot birdie putt came on the 187-yard, par-3 15th, the first hole of the “Bear Trap.”

Harman needed to birdie his final two holes to break 60, but missed a 27-foot birdie putt on No. 17. Needing eagle on the par-5 finishing hole, he tried to hit hybrid to the front pin. It landed in the front bunker. He blasted out to 5 feet, but missed the birdie putt.

“I was a little hot that I missed a 5-footer,” Harman said. “But at the same time, I was really aggressive with that bunker shot.”

Scoring has been a bit more favorable than in past Hondas. This is the sixth time the event has been played at PGA National. Only once has the winning score been double digits under par (Camilo Villegas, 2010). Gillis was two shots ahead of Harman and Vaughn Taylor, who Monday qualified for this event, after the morning wave.

Harman also got into this field last minute. He was the first alternate on Tuesday. He believes a 20-foot birdie putt on his final hole at Mayakoba moved him high enough in Sunday’s reshuffle to get into the Honda field.

Harman was a promising amateur player. He won the U.S. Junior in 2003 and made his first Walker Cup team two years later before starting at the University of Georgia. That United States team in 2005 included PGA Tour stalwarts Anthony Kim, J.B. Holmes and Jeff Overton. Harman also represented in the United States in 2009.

He’s experienced the best and worst of Q-School since turning pro after that second Walker Cup. He failed to advance out of Q-School’s first stage in 2009 and 2010, spending those two seasons on the eGolf Professional Tour. He navigated all three stages this past fall to vault from the mini-tours to the PGA Tour. He’s earned $124,239 this season, having made four of his first five cuts.

Friday was undoubtedly the highlight of his season, though.

“It was just one of those days where everything went my way,” he said.

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