Brian Harman, all 5-foot-7 of him, picked up the biggest win of his career when he edged Dustin Johnson and Pat Perez to win the Wells Fargo Championship in 2017, but the 30-year-old isn’t slowing down. He’s finished in the top 10 in each of his first five starts of the 2017-18 season, including a pair of top-5 finishes in Hawaii in the last two weeks. We caught up with Harman to talk about his hot start, major heartbreak, expectations and more.
GOLF.com: Fair to say your confidence level is high right now?
BRIAN HARMAN: It’s up there. I’ve done a pretty good job of just kind of resetting. When I was younger I felt like I could carry my momentum a little bit better where I’d have a good week and another good week and another good week. When I got on Tour, it’s kinda like, you get into contention, you’re so emotionally invested. And it’s really hard to start over afterwards, because you kind of want to get right back into contention. And it doesn’t always work that way. Golf tournaments are a long week. And there’s a lot of moving parts. Maybe I’m starting to figure it out a little bit more, how to play good after playing good. It’s a hard thing to do.
Let’s talk about last year. You really seemed to come into your own. You win the Wells Fargo, T2 at the U.S. Open. Can you put your finger on one thing that just really clicked for you last year?
I just think I’m just getting a little older and just not making as many mistakes and not taking the time out here for granted. When I got on Tour I was 24, wasn’t married, no kids. Now I’m married, I have a daughter. So things just kind of slowed down for me and I was able to just stay a little more present.
A lot of the top athletes often talk about the game slowing down for them.
For sure. I mean, it’s all kind of a blur when you first get on Tour, because you’re trying to get in tournaments and you’re trying to keep your card. And you’ve got all these things that you haven’t ever had to worry about. All of a sudden you’re having to worry about those things.
That Sunday at the U.S. Open at Erin Hills, you began the final round with a one-shot lead. You played with Justin Thomas, shot 72, but came up a bit short. After all the dust settled, did you learn something about yourself that week?
Yeah, I went out there and I didn’t play as well as I perhaps could have. But I think I played as well as I could that day. And that’s what taught me the most. It’s like, I have the game to win a major, and I know that. But you have to have some things go your way, and I ran into a buzz saw the last day. So yeah, I was disappointed I didn’t win, but I wasn’t disappointed in my effort.
In the aftermath, you said that you don’t believe in moral victories.
It’s one of those sayings, like, yeah, I wanted nothing more than to win that golf tournament. And I knew that I had an opportunity to do so. I’ll draw on that experience plenty. It’s not that I didn’t learn from anything. But a victory is a victory. And for me, I didn’t get it done that day. So that was an opportunity that I lost. And I’m not gonna have that opportunity back. I’m better because of it, but at the time, it’s a really hard pill to swallow.
Is there any doubt in your mind that you can win a major championship?
No. I don’t have any doubts in my game at all. It’s just a matter of continuing to do what I do and getting more chances. I don’t know if I’ll ever win one. I don’t know if it’ll ever happen. But I do believe I’m capable.
You’re one of only 13 lefties to win on the PGA Tour. I think that’s the only thing you do lefty, is swing the golf club.
Yeah, when I was a baseball player and I was a kid, I’d swing stuff left-hand. So my parents got me a right-handed glove, thinking I’d throw lefty. And they’d toss me a ball and I’d take my glove off and throw it back to ’em. So just, my brother is the opposite. He’s left-handed and plays golf right-handed.
Only five lefties in Tour history have won more than two times. Why haven’t more lefties broken through on Tour and in the game in general?
I just don’t think there’s that many, you know? Most people are right-handed. So there’s just not that many. Even the Canadian golfers, who you would think would be mostly left-handed, because a lot of ’em play left-handed in hockey, there’s still just not that many. I think there’s only two or three on Tour right now. They just kind of come and go.
You’ll make your second Masters appearance this year, after your debut there in ’15. What did you learn in 2015 that you can apply in 2018?
I probably put way too much emphasis on [preparing]. I was worried about it long before I should’ve been. I’ll go out there a couple times and I’ll play the course. But I really won’t put any focus into it until it’s time. I’ve got a lot of stuff in between now and then that are my goals. The only thing I can really control is what happens today, tomorrow, and just go from there. I’ll just try to have my game as good as I can get it when I get there.
Augusta National has been good to lefties, from Phil to Bubba to Mike Weir.
I think if you’re playing well, anywhere kind of suits your game. I contended at a U.S. Open that was 8,000 yards long. I contended at a PGA that was around the same — big, long golf courses. And I’ve played well at Harbor Town and Colonial and at short courses. So I think it’s got more to do with just how your game is. I don’t think one place necessarily suits one way or the other. Lefties have happened to have won there, but Phil’s very good. Bubba’s very good. Mike Weir was one of the best players in the world when he won there, so it favors good players.
Being a Georgia native, Georgia Bulldog, surely it would be extra special to win the Masters.
They’re all special, man. But, yes, that one is so cool. Growing up I always thought that would be the consensus, this is the one I definitely want to win. But then I get into the British and I’m like, man, how cool is this tournament? Contended in the U.S. Open like, wow, this is crazy. I had a good chance at the PGA last year, finished pretty well. They’re all unique in their own way. Any time you get to compete at the highest stage, in the biggest tournaments, it doesn’t get any better than that.
You’re 5-foot-7, 150 pounds. At least that’s what the book says on you. Do you feel underappreciated as a player because, you’re not Tony Finau, looking like a basketball player out there?
I don’t think that I’m underappreciated. I’ve just never been a real flashy guy. I’ve never been one that’s tried to bring a lot of attention to myself. I’ve always figured that if I play well, then I’ll have all the attention that I want.