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What does it take to win an Open Championship?

While Brian Harman achieved his first major championship over 72 holes at Royal Liverpool, it was all the work that had gone into his game before the final major of 2023 that made his victory possible.

One man who knows that better than anyone is his coach, Justin Parsons. The Northern Irishman has worked with Harman since 2019 and wasn’t shocked, unlike some of the golf world, to see his student clinch the Claret Jug.

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Speaking to, Parsons explained eight reasons why the 36-year-old was able to complete one of the most dominant major winning performances in recent memory.

His pedigree

Before turning pro, Brian Harman was one of the top amateurs in the world. He played on the Walker Cup team twice, helping the USA to a victory on both occasions. As well as that, his exploits in the college game while at the University of Georgia have been well documented.

This background, Parsons says, tells us a lot about the new Champion Golfer of the Year.

“You look at what he did as an amateur and who he beat in college and that tells you a lot about him. I wasn’t surprised by the shots he hit or by the quality of play that he was able to muster up.

“He was able to separate himself from the best players in the world at the biggest championship in the world.

“He made something that was extremely difficult look surprisingly easy.”

His newfound relaxed mindset

Harman touched on it himself, saying that he’s not always been the most present on the golf course. Sometimes, he said, he would get ahead of himself and not stay in the moment. Over the weekend at Royal Liverpool, this clearly wasn’t the case.

“By his own admission, he would sometimes get a little ahead of himself. He’s spoken very openly and honestly about that being a challenge for him,” said Parsons.

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After a Friday evening range session, Parsons thought that Harman was in the best headspace possible to defend his five-shot lead over the third and fourth round.

“There was just a bit of reassurance in that session. The way he was, his caddie, Scott Tway and I just looked at each other and thought: ‘this is unbelievable.’

“We thought he has never been quite as good as this mentally, and what a week to do it. I was very encouraged with where he was when I was leaving Royal Liverpool.”

Scott Tway’s influence

Scott Tway has been on Harman’s bag for around a decade and according to Parsons, played a big role in the left-hander’s success.

“One of the things Brian’s caddie did really well with over the weekend, was keeping him present,” said the Northern Irish coach.

Brian Harman caddie

“Golf is fascinating because there’s so much time to ponder what you’re doing. Those boys did an incredible job together because Brian was able to stay in the moment so well. It’s a wonderful thing to see because Scott has put at least half of his professional life as a caddie into Brian.

“He’s always stood up for him, he’s always gone into bat for him. He’s seen a couple coaches come and go and Brian trying a few things, so it’s lovely to see a guy like that also have that success.”

Keeping his alignment in check

Harman’s alignment and ball position is key to him playing well. Harman practices with an alignment stick between him and the ball to give him a guide to the target, as well as a stick between his feet, to keep his ball position in check.

All this, Parsons says, is to stop Harman aiming too far to the right and to stop his ball position from edging too far forward in his stance.

“In Brian’s case, certainly in the first two or three years that I worked with him, his tendency was to aim further and further right.

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“His body would get a little bit twisted and he wouldn’t be able to complete his backswing.

“He’s got a lot of lateral drive in his swing and the club would fall underneath the plane and he would end up hitting weaker shots to the left. As he did that, he would end up aiming further right to try and account for the miss to the left. In reality, that made it worse,” Parsons explained.

“With his shorter clubs, his 5-iron down to his wedges, he’s looking to make sure the ball doesn’t creep too far forward. When that happens, it tends to promote that wipey pattern of shot that goes out to the left.”

Keeping his swing speed up

It’s been well documented that Harman isn’t the longest on the PGA Tour. In fact, he ranks 144th on the PGA Tour in driving distance so far this year.

However, Parsons explains that Harman has gained speed in their time working together, and actively works on having enough power to compete.

Brian Harman

“We’ve employed the Stack system. We had a consultation with Dr Sasho MacKenzie to see if there was any energy leaks in Brian’s swing.

“But, even with waterproofs on and in the rain on Sunday, Brian was getting up to around 167 to 169mph ball speed. As long as he doesn’t slip underneath that, as long as he’s able to pitch the ball 285 to 290 yards, then we know that he can be a highly competitive player.

“He’s also very versatile off the tee. He will vary his tee height, he varies his shape, he varies his trajectory. He’s a very gifted driver of the ball.”

Various training aids

Along with the Stack system and Harman’s alignment stick drill, he also uses a DST 8-iron to help with compressing the ball, as well as a ball that sits between his arms to help him with connection through the swing.

DST Brian Harman coach

“The DST, the 8-iron he has, is all about getting compression. With that aid, there’s a ball striking element to it, but you also really need to move the pressure down around the corner for that clubface to stay stable, so it’s a really good tool.”

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“He has a tendency to get a bit of an early set on the way back, which is part of his pattern. We wouldn’t ever really want to tamper with that, but we would like to soften it from time to time, that’s why he uses the ball between his arms.

“That just allows him to get the beginning of his golf swing a little bit more connected. It helps him to drive the whole movement with his pivot.”

Putting prowess

Harman made 58 out of his 59 putts from inside ten feet over the four rounds, something which Parsons says was partly down to a training aid that helps Harman keep his stroke on a repeatable arc.

Harman wasn’t keen to disclose what was going so well after his third round, but Parsons shed some light on where he’s improved.

“The pattern that we’re trying to manage is a little bit of a right aim with his putting.

“He would take the putter back a little bit closed on the outside and kind of rock backwards a little bit. His head would sometimes go back through the putt and if he was going to miss the putt, it would sometimes be on the left.

Brian Harman putting

“He found a template where he can add a little more arc into his stroke. That gives him a little more toe swing, the club is tracking around the corner a little bit better and then he can start to release the putter better.”

Short game versatility

Parsons explained that Harman works on a worst-ball challenge, where he will hit two balls to each hole on the chipping green. Then, Parsons will take a measurement from where Harman’s shots have finished. If Harman can get under the tour average proximity, it gives him confidence that he can chip as well as anyone in a format that’s more difficult than what he’s going to face on the course.

“With this, we only make a diversion into technique if he’s not able to play a specific shot,” says Parsons.

“It’s all about sharpening his skills and his touch. You’re never going to change the way that they’re doing it, but what you are going to try and do is make it a little better. It’s about finding ways to do that without disrupting pattern and making sure you’re still growing confidence.

“From a short game perspective, he’s incredibly gifted. He’s got great hands and he works the club so well around the greens.”

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Lewis Fraser As bunkered’s Performance Editor, Lewis oversees the content that’s designed to make you a better player. From the latest gear to tuition, nutrition, strategy and more, he’s the man. A graduate of the University of Stirling, Lewis joined bunkered in 2021. Formerly a caddie at Castle Stuart Golf Links, he is a member of Bathgate Golf Club where he plays off four.

Performance Editor

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