Brian Harman was first alternate into the Players Championship on Thursday morning. He was on the driving range, ready to go. It’s a tough situation to be in because if you’re in the tournament, you know when you’re going and your whole pre-round timeline sets you up to play your best.
But when you’re one player over the edge of being in the tournament you don’t have that. You sort of have to get yourself loose and limber and in rhythm without really knowing if or when the gun is going to go off.
Unfortunately, that routine scenario was thrown head over heels when D.A. Points went right up to the brink, but was forced to withdraw after his name was announced on the tee.
“I haven’t got a chance to talk to D.A., but apparently he was on the tee, and he said basically, well, I am not going to go, I’m going to give whoever is an alternate a chance. So it was nice of him to at least do that.”
That seemed a little abrupt to say the least.
“I can understand [him doing that] this week, it’s a big purse, it’s a big tournament, and it’s an awesome golf tournament obviously and the guys are going to try until the very last second to see if they can play. I’m just glad that if he knew he wasn’t going to go, he actually went and didn’t play‑‑ hit a shot and then go in [in which instance the alternate would not get in because the player had begun the round].
So what evolved was such a messy situation that Tour official Mark Russell ended up on the Golf Channel set explaining what happened:
Very unusual situation. In my 31 years on the golf tour, I can never remember a player withdrawing right before he’s supposed to play. It happened very quickly. We didn’t have time to react, but once we were able to sit down and get our heads around this, figure out exactly what the situation is, we decided that Brian Harman had done everything that we had asked him to do, and at the time, he didn’t have a tee time.
So we re‑assigned him a tee time this afternoon. He’s going to play as a single. Then he’ll play [Friday] morning off the 10th tee as a single.
We didn’t have time to put him [in Points’] group, because they had already teed off and gone on to the second hole. Very unique situation. I mean, I’ve never seen anything like it really.
But once Harman was given his single tee time and ample time to prepare himself, he actually thrived in the experience.
“It was odd at first. I’m glad I had my caddie or I would have been in big trouble. I was like, this is kind of eerie, I feel like I’m playing a practice round or something. I had some great support out there. Obviously I’m from pretty close to here, so there were some people that knew me out there.”
“Well, actually it was really peaceful out there by yourself, just kind of out there in your own world. It was awesome. I kind of wish we’d do that more often out here. It’s pretty fun.”
What’s really interesting is how life’s prior trials and tribulations set you up to deal with the next ones. They make you uncomfortable, but they give you perspective.
“I mean, all things considered, I think I’d be lying if I wasn’t a little shook up by what had happened this morning. I was definitely just kind of taken aback. It was more like trying to take myself away from the situation, like this is going to be interesting however this turns out. This is a good story, like however this ends up going.”
“So I just tried to embrace it, and I remember last year this time, I was playing on the U Golf Tour and I was out there today playing in The Players Championship. It’s come a long way, so it’s hard to be upset or complain about anything.”
He started out, par-bogey-bogey. But Tour players have this magical power called “bounce back,” the ability to compensate for bogeys with immediately following birdies, to clean up their scorecards. It’s an actual Tour statistic.
Harman didn’t clean the two bogeys up right away, but he got the job done with a par-birdie-par-birdie stretch. He had two more back-to-back bogeys on the back and was only able to find one birdie to compensate for them. So a 1-over par 73 in the face of all the morning’s events is, as they say, “why he has his name on his bag.” Pretty impressive.
And so the Tour made good on giving him a morning tee time by himself on Friday, but they were going to put him out first off and that presented a bigger problem than playing as a single in the middle of a field of threesomes.
“Well, they still gave me the option if I wanted to go out first in the morning, but I thought I’d be catching the maintenance guys in the morning. So much goes into getting this golf course ready, I’d hate to be right on top of those guys. I don’t want any of the players to think I’m out there with an unfair advantage playing first off, so I happily moved back and played with everyone else.” They paired him with Bud Cauley and Ryan Moore in the spot Paul Casey withdrew from Thursday in mid-round with a bad shoulder.
He still didn’t feel quite centered when he started the second round on the 10th tee and kind of wallowed through it with one bogey on 14. But it didn’t take him long to light the candle once he made the turn. He eagled the 2nd and added 3 birdies to finish the round at 4-under. That put him at T17 and 3-under for the tournament with the three leaders, Zach Johnson, Keven Na and Matt Kuchar, just 5 strokes away at 8-under.
And he picked up a lot of fans in the process.
“Yeah, it’s been good. I got some fans yesterday. I saw on Twitter there was a ‘Free Brian Harman’ movement. That was awesome. I thought that was hilarious.”
“I had a lot of people from the crowd hollering out, ‘What’s up, Solo?'”
“I said, ‘Yeah, found me some friends today.’ I was telling everybody yesterday, I was the Ty Cobb of golf, out there playing by myself.”
“I really wanted to get into my own little deal out there, and you know, for me, this is a major. I feel like this is the fifth major and I wanted to be out there, just me and the golf course.”
And he had a sense of humor about the quirkiness of Thursday…while still embracing the opportunity to do it again.
“Yesterday was a little eerie starting out. I get to my ball and I’m like, oh, okay, now it’s my turn again. So today I was in a little bit better rhythm. But I still enjoyed playing by myself. It was still really cool.”
And, under the circumstances, so was Brian Harman.