Harman Closes Birdie-Birdie to Win Wells Fargo Championship

The streak is over.

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson, attempting to win his fourth consecutive tournament, made a furious weekend comeback after making the cut on the number, but fell a single stroke short.

 
With a second consecutive round of five-under 67, DJ finished the Wells Fargo Championship at 9-under, good for a disappointing-only-by-the-ridiculous-standard-he-has-set tie for second place.

One of the biggest players on Tour, at least vertically, Johnson is constantly lauded for his otherworldly athleticism. That makes it kind of funny that his three-start winning streak was snapped by the diminutive Brian Harman, a 5’7” man who would certainly get zero votes in a player survey of the top 100 Tour players they would least want to encounter in a dark alley.

With four birdies over his last seven holes, including an exclamation point finish: a 28-foot birdie putt after having hit two atrocious shots back-to-back, the 30-year-old Georgian (the American kind) captured his second career PGA victory.


Final Top 10

  1 Brian Harman -10
T2 Dustin Johnson, Pat Perez -9
4 Jon Rahm -8
T5 Smylie Kaufman, Kevin Tway, Seung-Yol Noh -7
T8 Jonathan Randolph, Billy Hurley III, Nick Taylor, Byeong Hun An -6

Other Notables

T12 Paul Casey, Patrick Reed -5
T18 Zach Johnson, Graeme McDowell, Phil Mickelson -4
T24 Shane Lowry, Francesco Molinari -3
T31 Alex Noren -2
T36 Adam Scott, J.B. Holmes -1
T59 James Hahn, Nick Watney +3


How Harman Did It

With an incredible number of players near the lead at the start of the final round, whoever was going to win would need one of the best rounds of the entire tournament, and that is what Brian Harmon had.

 
On a course that had never been played in a Tour event (the regular Wells Fargo host, Quail Hollow, is being prepped for the PGA Championship), Harman looked very comfortable shooting 71-69-70-68, making him just one of three players (Jon Rahm, Morgan Hoffman) to finish all four rounds under par.

His front nine was not anything special; he made the turn in 1-under with two birdies and a bogey. However, he came on strongly down the stretch with birdies on 12, 14, 17, and 18 to win by one stroke.

On the par-5 18th, Harman hit a quality drive, but then made two errors in a row. First , he made the decision to go for the green, but launched it into the grandstand, well left of the hole.   The move was especially curious as Harmon has been terrible this season with his long approaches. With his great short game, laying up would have made more sense. Next, he chunked his pitch shot, barely reaching the edge of the green.

The Wells Fargo looked destined for a playoff at that point, but impressively, Harman was able to put those two shots behind him, sinking a 28-foot putt for an improbable finishing birdie.

It was the 10th time this season that he shot a round in the 60s on Sunday.


What It Means For Harman

The victory in Wilmington (North Carolina) is the second of Harman’s career, with the first coming at the 2014 John Deere Classic. He had been playing well coming into the week with three top 15 finishes in his previous four events.

 

This provides some excellent momentum going into next week’s Players Championship, an event he finished T8 in just two years ago.


DJ Stays Hot

Despite winning his previous three starts, Dustin Johnson was unsure of what to expect going into the Wells Fargo Championship, as he was coming off an absence of over a month. The last time we saw him, he was withdrawing from The Masters with a freak back injury that occurred the day before the tournament started.

 
There was a little rust to be shaken off in Wilmington: after a solid opening-round 70, he shot his worst round of the year, a 3-over 75 to make the cut by a single shot. He was unquestionably the best player in the field over the weekend, going 10-under between Saturday and Sunday.

He had six birdies to just one bogey in his final round, and was attempting to become just the second player to win four consecutive PGA Tour starts since Ben Hogan did it in 1953 (Tiger Woods has done it three times, yet another stat where he is a Gretzky-esque outlier).

DJ will look to start a new streak, as the favorite in The Players Championship.


Breaking Out of the Shadow

As of late March, Kevin Tway had never finished in the top 10 in a Tour event, and was much more well-known for being Bob Tway’s son than for anything he had done on a golf course.

 
With three birdies over his last six holes in round 4, Tway posted a two-under 70 and finished T5. It was his THIRD consecutive top-5 finish, as he was T3 at the Valero Texas Open and solo-third at the Zurich Classic over the past two weeks.

He probably will not get to take that hot streak into The Players, as he is currently an alternate, but he has reason to be confident over the rest of his season. His famous father, by the way, finished T9 in this week’s Champions Tour event.


Others Playing Well

The 2016 season of Pat Perez was an absolute nightmare. He missed eight cuts in 11 events through March, with nothing better than a T41 in the other three, before missing the rest of the season after shoulder surgery.

 
Each week that 2017 has progressed, Perez has looked further and further removed from that terrible season. He was dialed in on Sunday, carding eight birdies in a four-under 68, and finishing in a tie for second place with DJ. Perez has five top 10 finishes this season, including a victory at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba.

The 2017 season has been a massive struggle for Smylie Kaufman, having only made four cuts in 12 events coming into the week, including seven of his last eight, with nothing inside the top 35. After a final-round four-under 68, Kaufman finished T5, his first quality start in 11 months.

He remarked after the round that his game had been trending positively, even if the results were not reflecting it. Now they do.


Wanting Their Sunday Back

One of the biggest shockers of the 2017 season has been the poor play of American golf star Patrick Reed. Normally a top-10 machine, Reed has none since early January, and had missed three of his last four cuts coming into the week.

 
Reed was tremendous over the first three rounds, taking the 54-hole lead, but after a terrible 3-over 75 on Sunday, he appears to still have work to do to get his game back. Reed was abysmal off the tees all week, but had been unbelievable scrambling.

Unfortunately, the bad drives finally caught up to him, as his short game was not able to save him on Sunday. He finished T12. Reed should be encouraged, however, that for the second consecutive week, he played well enough to win in three of four rounds.

Reed’s Sunday playing partner, Alex Noren, was even worse. Starting the day one off of the lead, the World No. 12 had just one birdie on the day to six bogeys. With the 5-over 77, Noren plummeted 29 spots down the leaderboard.

Fan favorite Phil Mickelson was just outside the top 10 after three rounds, but his first 11 holes on Sunday torpedoed his chances, as he stood on the 12th tee at 4-over for the day. Phil rebounded beautifully from there, playing the final seven holes -4, but by then, the damage had already been done. His even-par 72 left him in a tie for 18th place.


Quotable

“It’s surreal. I three-putted that 15th hole and knew it would be tough to birdie those last couple, but I just stuck with my game plan and did the best I could.”
Brian Harman, 2017 Wells Fargo Championship Winner

Joel Cook

Joel Cook is Pro Golf Weekly's Lead Writer.



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