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Brian Harman was the ninth player in the last 30 years to hold a lead of five or more shots at the halfway stage of a major championship.

Pop quiz: Who are the others?

Clue: They all went on to win.

And barring the mother of all meltdowns, Harman is going to do the same.

It all started so positively, too – for those of us that want a bit of drama in our Sunday, at least. Harman rattled a chip 15 feet by at the first hole for an opening bogey and, thanks to Jon Rahm’s rampageous 63 earlier in the day, the lead was slashed from to five to three.

There was a bit more hope about half an hour later when Harman did exactly the same thing at the fourth and suddenly it was a two-shot game.

But then Harman found his focus. And, more importantly, he started finding fairways and greens – a tactic executed so meticulously it will almost certainly result in his name being scrawled on the Claret Jug at around 6pm on Sunday. Birdies at the fourth, ninth, 12th and 13th took him six clear.

There aren’t many sporting crowds more respectful of their athletes than that of an Open Championship, and any collective groans as playing partner and local favourite Tommy Fleetwood’s chances slowly evaporated were drowned out by the politest of applause.

It wasn’t all nice, though. “I’d be lying if I didn’t hear some things that weren’t super nice today towards me,” he said in his post-round press conference.

But he won’t care. This is a man who hunts animals for fun, and happily poses for photos with the blood-soaked corpses. (Though given how many waggles he takes when standing over a golf shot, how these creatures don’t have enough time to get away before he pulls the trigger is anyone’s guess.) It’s a hobby that’s earned him the nickname the Butcher of Hoylake – the first of two new titles with which the Champion Golfer elect will fly back to Georgia on Monday.

He also wears a cap with “MegaCorp” on it – a company that sounds like the cover for a comic book villain. Which is about as good a metaphor as we’ll get this week.

• Justin Thomas and form’s unrequited love

• Round 4 tee times

For Fleetwood, it was the same old Mr Nice Guy routine. Even a few calls of his beloved Everton’s fight song from the galleries couldn’t stir something inside him. In the calmest and softest of conditions, Fleetwood’s second successive even-par 71 was as disappointing a major round as he will ever shoot.

“If you’re on the outside looking in you probably just say it’s one of those days,” Fleetwood said. “When it’s you, you’re frustrated and you try and look at what you could have done different.”

Where’s the fight, Tommy? When Rahm came off the course after his opening-round 74, he was furious. As in, ranting about anything and everything he could think of furious. What happened next? A 71 followed by an unbelievable 63 that fired the Spaniard not only into contention but above Fleetwood – a man who started the day seven shots ahead of him.

As for Harman, he will be delighted that Cameron Young birdied the 18th to move to seven-under par. Yes, it chopped his then lead of six to five, but it meant Young will play alongside him in the final group instead of the all-guns-blazing Rahm.

The Champion Golfer elect’s victory won’t quite be Ben Curtis levels in terms of the shock factor – Harman is, after all, a respectable 26th in world – but you could argue it’s worse. That week had drama, and romance, and Tiger Woods.

So we end day three the same way we started it – with Harman leading by five. Only two players have ever blown a 54-hole lead of that margin at The Open – Macdonald Smith in 1925 and – one you’re more likely to remember – Jean Van de Velde at Carnoustie in ’99.

Is it too late to build a burn across the front of the 18th?

Tommy Fleetwood

Here are the quiz answers. How did you get on?

  • Nick Price (1994 PGA Championship)
  • Tiger Woods (2000 US Open)
  • Louis Oosthuizen (2010 Open)
  • Rory McIlroy (2011 US Open)
  • (Martin Kaymer (2014 US Open)
  • Jordan Spieth (2015 Masters)
  • Brooks Koepka (2019 PGA Championship)
  • Scottie Scheffler (2022 Masters)

Want to hear more of my ramblings from RLGC? You’ll find those with Michael McEwan on The bunkered Podcast Open Commute.


author headshot

Alex Perry is the Associate Editor of bunkered. A journalist for more than 20 years, he has been a golf industry stalwart for the majority of his career and, in a five-year spell at ESPN, covered every sporting event you can think of. He completed his own Grand Slam at the 2023 Masters, having fallen in love with the sport at his hometown club of Okehampton and on the links of nearby Bude & North Cornwall.

Associate Editor

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