FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – Should you have ventured out into the periphery of the area – say, toward New York City via the Long Island Expressway – you might have found it impossible to breathe, let alone move.
Ah, summer traffic. Nothing like it.
But if you were talented enough to be inside the ropes at Bethpage Black – “one big, muscular golf course,” said Padraig Harrington – the freedom to move about comfortably was quite sufficient.
Just ask Kevin Stadler, who began the third round of The Barclays at T-42 and ended it solo third.
Or perhaps Phil Mickelson would vouch for the comfort zone. He was T-52 to start Saturday’s action, but after five birdies against just one bogey, the left-hander had hurdled 42 players.
Ditto Tim Clark, whose 67 moved him with Mickelson from T-52 to T-10.
Into that light, may we introduce a Tour dynamo – even if he stands just 5 feet, 7 inches and weighs in the neighborhood of 150 pounds.
Brian Harman is quietly having a solid rookie season, though apparently that view depends upon your vantage point. It looks nice on paper – he came into the first playoff tournament 98th in money ($786,676) and 97th in the FedEx Cup standings – but the diminutive left-hander is working off a different script.
“I’ve done OK, but I have not finished off tournaments the way I’d like to,” he said. “I’ve had some good weeks, I’ve had some bad weeks. I’ve experienced a bit of everything.”
One thing he has continued to show is an ability to “go low.” Funny, given how much talent is out here on the PGA Tour, you might think everyone wears that label, but that’s not true. Harman, however, does, and he’s got the numbers to back it up – a 61, two 64s, four 65s.
“He’s not afraid to shoot low,” said Davis Love III, a longtime observer as he’s known Harman for many years, given their Sea Island, Ga., residence and the fact they have shared a common instructor, Jack Lumpkin.
“If you were just out playing and didn’t tell him what the score was or that it was to keep your card or win your first tournament . . . those kind of things . . . once he gets over that kind of hump, he’s going to be good,” Love said.
Though 68 may not sound “low,” given the crusty greens and swirling winds that provided some teeth to Bethpage Black, Harman was among those who also took advantage and showed why Saturday is called “moving day” on Tour. Though he bogeyed the last hole, Harman pushed to 5 under, and as he cooled down with some practice putting after his round, the young golfer watched as his status steadily improved – by day’s end, he was joint sixth, five behind the leader, the suddenly resurgent Sergio Garcia.
Not that Harman is thinking of winning, mind you. Or even pushing so well up into the FedEx Cup standings that as a top-100 finisher in the FedEx Cup standings he would not only move on to next week’s Deutsche Bank Championship but also be primed for a top-70 spot in the BMW Championship. No, Harman’s committed to stepping back, taking a few added breaths, and embracing perspective.
“The best way to handle that stuff is to go out and play well,” he said.
Sounds simple? Well, it hasn’t been something he’s been good at. The glory of Harman, though, is that he knows why.
“I make a lot of birdies,” he said. “That’s definitely an upside, but it’s also my downfall, too. When I get going, everything’s great, everything’s peachy, the wind’s not blowing, the sun’s out. When I get going poorly, they kind of keep going poorly, and that’s something I’ve got to work on.”
Just 25, Harman has plenty of time, and you have to like his chances, especially if he continues to soak in the sights like what he saw in front of him in Friday’s second round. It was Tiger Woods starting his day bogey, bogey.
“I watched him do it and I turned to my caddie (John Davenport) and said, ‘This isn’t going to faze him.’ And he goes out and plays 4 under the rest of the way in some of the hardest conditions you can imagine.”
Harman needs a little more of that? He smiled and nodded his head.
“It’s something I’ve got to get better at. The days when things aren’t going well, not that I give up, but I keep pressing. I press and I press and I press. I’ve got to turn yesterday’s 75 into a 71 or 72.”
Fortunately, he turned Friday’s 75 into a 68 and because he did, the one-time University of Georgia standout is in the thick of things.
Not that he’s in uncharted waters, mind you, because he has recorded eight top-25 finishes – proof that he has faced a bit of Sunday heat this year. Harman said he’s just got to learn to get to that next level – while toning down his emotions.
“If you try to force it out here, you’re going to get in a lot of trouble. It takes patience.”