The Claret Jug is in Brian Harman‘s hands.
The former Georgia Bulldog won the Open Championship Sunday at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in the village town of Hoylake, England. Harman held a 5-shot lead into the final round and won by six strokes over another former Georgia Bulldog, Sepp Straka.
“It’s just overwhelming joy,” Harman said to NBA broadcaster Mike Tirico while holding the Claret Jug. “This is the best golf tournament in the world.”
No GA sports betting means local fans couldn’t cash in
Harman was considered a major longshot to win the British Open. His odds to win the Open Championship were +12000, or 120/1, at top online sportsbooks.
Heading into Saturday’s third round, Harman’s odds to win were +140. He became the prohibitive favorite to win on Sunday, when his odds dropped to -200.
But Georgia sports betting is illegal. This means fans in the Peach State were unable to bet on the British Open at legal, regulated sportsbooks.
While sports betting is legal in more than 30 states, Georgia sports betting is still hoping to get on the tee and in the game. But a recent statewide poll of 800 Georgians showed that 60% favor sports betting and 66% favor legalizing casinos.
“Casino gaming would be an enormous economic boost and job creator for our state,” said Dan McLagan, spokesman for All in Georgia, the casino industry group that commissioned the poll. “Georgia should go big and up our game as an economic powerhouse, tourist destination and job creator.”
Sports betting bills failed for the fourth year in a row during the 2023 legislative session. HB 237 did not pass during a last-ditch ‘Hail Mary’ attempt. The Georgia Senate previously voted against SB 57 and SR 140, while the House let its legislation, HB 380, die without a vote.
Georgia sports betting could launch in late-2024 or 2025 if approved during next year’s legislative session.
Rain doesn’t wash out Harman’s British Open chances
Sitting on a big lead into the final round, Harman also maintained his composure playing in the rain Sunday. He gave much credit to caddie Scott Tway, who added a calming influence throughout the tournament and especially during the rain-soaked final round. Tway played college golf many years ago at Georgia Southern.
“I haven’t historically done very good in the rain. It’s just always bugged me. I was really proud of the way that I struck the ball in the rain today.”
Harman had made 54-of-54 putts inside 10 feet until finally missing one on hole No. 13 in the final round. But he bounced back with two birdies on the toughest hole at No. 14 making a 40-foot putt, and another on No. 15 to extend his lead back to 5-shots before making a final 10-footer on 18 for par to capture the Claret Jug as The Open Champion.
“I spent a lot of time just feeling the ball, almost hitting like a baby draw with my putter, and it’s been really, really good the last month or so.”
The determined and straight-shooting Harman rode his strong short game to victory. Per stats compiled by Justin Ray of The Athletic, Harman led the field in putting while finishing fourth in scrambling and second in accuracy from the tee. His precision prevailed over power. Harman also found the penal pot bunkers just twice in the tournament, which was also best in the 156-player field.
Harman needed just 106 putts for the week. That’s the fewest by a champion in the 20 years detailed statistics have been tracked at The Open.
Other former Georgia Bulldog golfers who played in the 2023 Open Championship include:
- Sepp Straka (T2)
- Brendon Todd (T49)
- Russell Henley (Cut)
- Chris Kirk (Cut)
Harman goes from UGA to British Open champion
Harman was born in Savannah and played golf at the University of Georgia, where he was a second-team All-American three times and won the 2005 NCAA Preview. Harman had a standout amateur career and gained a victory in the 2003 US Junior Championship. He went on to be a member of two winning US Walker Cup teams (2005, 2009).
Harman turned pro in 2009 and joined the PGA Tour in 2012. The 5-foot 7 ‘bulldog’ now has three PGA Tour victories and his first major title. He’s finished top-10 in two other major championships, and has finished runner-up four times and third place nine times on Tour.
Ahead of The Open Championship, Harman was ranked No. 26 in the Official World Golf Rankings. His victory moves him into the top-20; the highest ranking of his PGA Tour career.
Along with three PGA Tour wins, Harman posted 29 top-10 finishes since the start of the 2017-18 PGA Tour season. That was the most on Tour for any player without a win until Harman broke through to capture his first major.
An avid bow and arrow hunter who enjoys eating wild meat, Harman also loves sports and follows all teams from Atlanta along with the Georgia Bulldogs. Harman and his wife Kelly live in southern Georgia on a farm with their son and daughter. A third child is expected this year.
“I’m a bow hunter, no new rifles. I had a nice week a couple weeks ago and I bought a new tractor for my hunting place, so I’ll get home and I’ll be on the tractor mowing grass in the next few weeks, so I’m excited about that.”
Photo credit: AP Photo/Jon Super