Brian Harman had a revelation last summer when he teed off with Justin Thomas in the final pairing of the U.S. Open at Erin Hills.
“You get into the last day of one of those tournaments and you look around and it’s not a bunch of strangers,” Harman said. “You’re still trying to beat the same guys that you’re trying to beat every week. For me it was kind of comforting. Yeah, it’s a big stage, but this is a familiar place.”
The Savannah native and Georgia alum has been a familiar name on leaderboards since beating Dustin Johnson and winning for the first time in three years in the Wells Fargo Championship at Eagle Point last May. His runner-up finish to Brooks Koepka at the U.S. Open was his best major finish coming after missing the cut in every major in 2015 and failing to qualify for any of them in 2016.
After changing equipment and his golf ball last year, Harman's success has taken off as he finds himself in the thick of the PGA Tour points race as well as Ryder Cup qualifying.
“I’ve gotten a little older and starting to know what it takes around these courses a little bit better,” said the 31-year-old Harman. “I want to think you get a little bit better the longer time you’re out here.”
He’ll return to the Masters for the first time since his lone appearance in 2015, when he shot 76-72 to miss the cut. It was a tough pill to swallow for a Georgia native who first played Augusta National as a guest when he was 14 and was dreaming about green jackets throughout one of the all-time best junior careers.
Unfortunately for Harman, his first appearance coincided with a slump in form as he came to the Masters fresh off four consecutive missed cuts.
“I was just irritated because I just didn’t play well,” he said. “I didn’t play well leading up to it and was just kind of chasing it and didn’t handle it as well as I thought I should have.”
This time his form should translate better as he posted top-10 finishes in six of his first nine PGA Tour starts this season, and he knows what to expect this time when he gets to Augusta.
“Just being a little more familiar with how the week’s going to go, it’ll be less of a blur this time,” he said. “Hopefully it will slow down a little bit.”
The left-handed Harman isn’t concerned that he’ll be out of his depth against the power hitters at 7,435-yard Augusta National.
“Yeah it favors lefties and they’ll make a thing about it favoring longer players, but you would say the U.S. Open last year would certainly favor longer players,” Harman said. “The course I won at certainly favors longer players. I don’t pay any attention to that. I just try to play the best that I can. I know what I’m good at and know what I’m not good at. I can hit fairways and if it’s decently firm I can get out there a long ways and be competitive anywhere. I’ll see how it goes.”