American Brian Harman fired a final round five-under-par, 66 to secure his first victory on the PGA TOUR at the John Deere Classic. Harman ran over the TPC Deere Run by posting 22-under 262 to defeat 2012 champion Zach Johnson by one shot. Jhonattan Vegas and Jerry Kelly shared third place two shots further back.
This was the first time that Harman had every slept on a lead, let alone a 54-hole lead in his PGA TOUR career, but he left no doubt that he belonged on this level after his 66 on Sunday. Playing with three-time champion Steve Stricker and beginning the day with a one-shot lead, Harman looked like the trusty veteran in the final pair. After two eagles on Saturday, Harman bagged another on No. 2 Sunday to open up a three-shot lead and he never looked back. The worst he did was share the top spot on Sunday but after birdies on Nos. 14, 15 and 16, he slammed the door shut.
Harman was successful this week but he got some help from the most unlikely source, a high school golf coach. After his caddy, Scott Tway walked off during after seven holes in round one with food poisoning, the Good Samaritan carried Harman’s bag for the final 11 holes. Harman birdied six of the final eight holes on that round to post his 63 and get his week off to a great, yet bizarre, start.
For the week, Harman was T1 in GIR and T8 in fairways but that shouldn’t be surprising for a winner at the JDC as the fairways and greens are quite large. The key this week was avoiding bogeys and racking up par-breakers. Harman only made six bogeys on the week and the last one was immaterial; he also racked up 22 birdies and three eagles and that was the key to his success this week. It didn’t hurt to open with 63 and close 65-66 either! It took 88 starts but this first victory gets him a two-year exemption on TOUR, invites to the WGC-BI and PGA Championship plus qualified him for next week’s Open Championship at Hoylake, his first-ever appearance across the pond.
Entering the week, gamers should have been cool on the former Bulldog as he was coming off three event stretch of T42, MC and MC. But, if there was going to be a week to take a chance on ANY flier, this was the week because an easy course giving up buckets of birdies can get players back on track quickly. Season-long gamers were rewarded that they invested in an up-and-comer who racked up 30 starts in 2012 and 29 last season. The lefty has always had a penchant for going low as evidenced by his 61 at Honda but this was the first season that he’s really started racking up top 10s and top 25s. His previous best finish on TOUR was T3 twice, 2012 at Wyndham and earlier this year at Riviera. His strength is his short game and putting and a penchant for making birdies so it’s no wonder he’s holding the trophy after this week!
Moving forward, gamers need to be aware that following his other five top 10s this season Harman has nothing better than T42. I wouldn’t immediately jump to the conclusion that he’s going to be Brendon Todd for the rest of the season. His win this week deserves respect but I wouldn’t rearrange my team/lineup for the rest of the season just yet because outside of the RBC Canadian, Reno-Tahoe and Wyndham, the other events, WGC, PGA and four FedExCup Playoff events are big-boy events.
With his victory, his first on TOUR, Harman collects $845,000 and 500 FedExCup points.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won 24 of 35 events in 2013-14. Harris English, Jimmy Walker (THREE), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed (TWO), Scott Stallings, Kevin Stadler, Bubba Watson (TWO), Russell Henley, Chesson Hadley, Matt Every, Matt Kuchar, J.B. Holmes, Brendon Todd, Ben Crane, Kevin Streelman and Brian Harman have won for the USA.
Adam Scott, Matt Jones, Steven Bowditch, John Senden and Jason Day, all Australians, have cashed five victories. Hideki Matsuyama joined Seung-yul Noh as the Asian representatives and Martin Kaymer now has a play pal as Justin Rose joins the European effort. Angel Cabrera flies the flag for South America.
S.Y. Noh, Steven Bowditch, Matt Every, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Stadler, Chesson Hadley Matt Jones, Brendon Todd, Hideki Matsuyama and now Brian Harman are the first-time winners this season. There were 12, first-timers in 40 events last year and we’ve had 10 in 35 events so far in 2014.
Only 17 of the 38, 54-hole leaders went on to win last year in full-field, stroke play events. I’m always trying to figure out if this is a trend or not. In 2013-14, 17 of 34 leaders have gone on to win as Harman ran away from the field late in the afternoon.
There were no 59 this week but Scott Brown’s 61 on Saturday had everyone’s attention. #gottagolowYo
For the fifth time in the last six years, the winning score was 20-under or lower. Jordan Spieth’s 19-under last year was the highest score in this stretch. #golower
This was the first event in three where a playoff was not required. That’s what happens with birdies on Nos. 14, 15 and 16!
Harman will look to join Phil Mickelson and nine others that have won on TOUR the week before a major championship and then have gone on to win the following week. Justin Rose, winner in his last two events worldwide will also be lumped into this category after his win at Royal Aberdeen on the European Tour.
Young Guns Versus Prime Time Versus Old Guys
Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and has since added two more wins to lead the FedExCup standings. He has been joined by Ryan Moore (30) in Malaysia, Zach Johnson (37) at Kapalua, Kevin Stadler (33), at WMPO and Bubba Watson (35), joined them at Riviera. Matt Every (30), Steven Bowditch (30) and Matt Jones (33), all first-timers, flew the flag before Watson picked up victory No. 2 of the year at Augusta. Since the first major, Matt Kuchar (37), J.B. Holmes (32), Adam Scott (33), Ben Crane (38), Kevin Streelman (35) and Justin Rose, 33, add to the prime-timers trophy case.
Scott Stallings (28), Patrick Reed TWICE (23), Chris Kirk (28), Webb Simpson (28), Dustin Johnson (29), Harris English (24), Jason Day (26) and Russell Henley (24) Seung-Yul Noh (22), Martin Kaymer TWICE (29), Brendon Todd (28) and Hideki Matsuyama (22) and Harman, 27, are the twenty-somethings who have made large noise this year.
Australian John Senden (42) FINALLY has some company in the winner’s circle this year for the old folks as Cabrera, 44, made it a two-some last week. Steve Stricker, 47, began the day one shot back on a course he owns and made ONE birdie on Sunday. One. Uno. Sigh.
What I learned from the finishers in the top 10
Zach Johnson: These are his last six finishes at JDC: T2, T21, T3, WIN, T2 and solo second this year. His worst round in 24 is 69. He hadn’t had a top 10 since Valero (T6) in the last week in March. The JDC cures what ails, especially with him regardless of form. He will take over for Stricker in the AUTOMATIC USE category in this event next year.
Jhonattan Vegas: After essentially missing the entire 2013 season due to shoulder surgery, the former Texas Longhorn and TOUR winner closed 63-65 to post his best finish since T3 at Torrey Pines in 2011. My colleague Rob Bolton has posted that Vegas met the requirements for his Major Medical Exemption for the rest of 2013-14. He needed T5 or better and he got it and now he can focus on moving up the FedExCup ladder. Check Rotoworld.com for up-to-the-minute details! Everyone knows that Vegas kills it off the tee but he usually struggles with the putter. Not this week. He finished fifth in strokes gained-putting (SGP) and only made two bogeys in the final three rounds, including zero on Sunday. When a guy who sits 169th in SGP finishes the week fifth and racks up a podium finish, I’m VERY suspicious moving forward.
Jerry Kelly: The wrong Cheese Head, for most gamers, finished on the podium this week. Kelly, who was born in Madison, stole the spotlight off Stricker by playing the weekend bogey-free 65-66. Heck, he also had a bogey-free first round! Similar to Harman, Kelly was T11 in fairways and T1 GIR so it’s hardly surprising he made 22 birdies and finished T3. He also led the field in SGP so it was a banner week for the “other” 47-year-old. He backed up his T4 last year with T3 this year and now has played 17 of his last 18 rounds here par or better. Oddly enough, this was also his first top 10 since T6 at Valero as well.
Scott Brown: Another player like Harman who entered the week ice cold (MC, T71, T75) Brown rolled in 25 birdies (T1) and played the weekend in 13-under. Most of that came with 61 on Saturday and Brown missed a 10-footer on No. 18 on Sunday that would have seen him share third place. This was only his third top 25 and second top 10 in 19 events in 2014 so this came as a welcome relief to season-long investors. Brown now has two top 10s in three starts at JDC so he’s automatically on the list next year.
Tim Clark: Similarly to Spieth, Clark’s opening round 72 was just a few too many to start with but he tried like hell to erase it with three rounds of 63-64-67. After five bogeys on Thursday he carded just one for the rest of the week as he hit T4 fairways and T5 GIR. His long putter also held up its end of the bargain as he finished 12 in SGP. In 15 previous events in 2014 Clark posted T19 and T21 as his best results. He also missed eight cuts during this stretch including his two previous events leading into this week. Sigh. But, in five events at JDC, he know has solo second, T7 and another T7 this week on top of T18 and T36. Put him in the barn with the other course horses that don’t need any form entering this shootout!
Bo Van Pelt: He’s now made nine of his last 10 cuts but his T7 this week is the first top 10 since T6 at the 2013 WFC so my excitement is tempered. I’ll still look to add him in later rounds of weekly games because he has been steady, if not spectacular.
Jordan Spieth: His opening round 71 didn’t do him any favors but he’s never been one to mail anything in. He rebounded with 64-67-66 to finish T7 even though his numbers didn’t show it. He was 25 in SGP, T41 GIR and T31 in fairways but still found a way. That’s now seven top 10s in 20 events this season. #chaching The worse part about the Stricker/Johnson/Spieth Holy Trinity this week was which days to start them so I hope gamers guessed correctly!
Ryan Moore: Back-to-back TPC courses for Moore and back-to-back top 10s as he backed up his T5 at TPC River Highlands with T7 this week at TPC Deere Run. Moore likes TPC courses because he’s an excellent putter and those courses are usually putting contests on TOUR. Gamers, please write that down for next time. He’s now six-for-six at JDC and that includes T8, T23 and this year’s T7 in the last three. He was free money in Yahoo! Group A this week.
Johnson Wagner: For the second summer in a row Wagner pops up out of the wilderness and claims a top 10 on an easy TOUR set up. Last year he finished T2 at the Old White TPC at Greenbrier after MC in six of his previous seven events. This year he hits the top 10 for the first time since Reno-Tahoe last August and his first top 25 since Humana in late January.
What happened to my pre-tournament favorites?
Steve Stricker: Entering Sunday he was in the final group with a guy who had never led after ANY round on TOUR let alone one after 54-holes. Yet, it was Stricker who played like somebody looking nervous in the final group. I ignored his Sunday stumble last week at Greenbrier because of his magic act at JDC. His magic act on Sunday involved DISAPPEARING. If he can’t read greens on a course where he’s absolutely dominated over the last five years then I am officially off the bandwagon. He made his first birdie of the final round on No. 17 and ended up seven shots off the lead at the end. He hit the ball all over the shop when all 14 clubs and I even saw him miss a putt by no less than six feet WIDE of the target. His limited schedule is obviously not keeping his game in winning condition so I’m retiring him from my lineups. Bolton made a great point during our chat on Wednesday that stuck to me. He said something to the fact that one day Stricker is just going to disappear from leaderboards and it will just be over like that. These last two Sundays might just be a sign of what’s to come.
Jordan Spieth: See above.
Zach Johnson: See above.
Kevin Na: He finished T13 after a 71 on Saturday slowed his steam. His 65 on Sunday moved him just outside the top 10 and his excellent 2014 continues to roll on.
Chris Stroud: This isn’t the even where you brag about having four rounds at par or better but it is a fact for Stroud this week. The bad news is that got him T59 this week. The good news is that he’s playing very steady golf and fantasy land just waits another week for him to break through.
John Senden: He played three of four rounds in the 60s and all four rounds at par or better and finished T45. His ball-striking took the week off for his standards as he didn’t hit as many fairways and greens that he should have. He continues his run of all-or-nothing at JDC with his T45.
Harris English: The other half of my Yahoo! Group C with Chris Stroud did me no favors this week as he couldn’t back up his T7 at the Travelers. His T74 on the easiest course on TOUR reinforces his struggles since early 2014. I was expecting the corner to be turned. It wasn’t.
Chris Kirk: He was 20-for-20 in weekends in 2014. He’s now 20-for-21 as he might as well have used a hockey stick on the greens. He followed up his worst week of 2014 with his first MC of the year, a career year. It’s fantasy golf in a thimble. Chug it and move on.
Billy Hurley III: After back-to-back top 10s and seven weekends in a row, BH III gave gamers a sweet dose of reality this week as the usually excellent putter made nothing and MC. This was uncharted waters for BH III and gamers but in a thin field, I didn’t see anything wrong with jumping on the bandwagon. Projections are just that sometimes. I have no idea why he and Kirk couldn’t all of a sudden putt this week!
Ryan Moore: See above.
Kevin Streelman: He came from absolutely nowhere to win the Travelers so this MC shouldn’t be too surprising. In his last six events he’s MC five times and won the Travelers. Fantasy golf is hard.
Bud Cauley: After opening 67-67 he looked poised to continue his solid summer playing. Where his 69 on Saturday didn’t entirely help, it also didn’t hurt. His 41 on the final nine saw him drop 34 spots from T18 to T52 really hurt. I’ll let you know the next time he puts back-to-back weeks together…
Coming TUESDAY Afternoon
I post my weekly preview column, Range Rover, for the TOUR stop and Playing the Tips. Playing the Tips will be up and running this and every Tuesday afternoon and will list all of the Rotoworld experts picks in the GolfChannel.com game, the Yahoo! Fantasy Golf game and my One-and-Done feature.
And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat Wednesday at NOON ET. We will be breaking down the field at the The Open Championship and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter. Don’t forget to follow Rob (http://twitter.com/RobBoltonGolf) and Glass (http://twitter.com/mikeglasscott) on Twitter.