Moving Day at Hoylake
Jon Rahm and Cameron Young charged up the leaderboard, but this British Open remains Brian Harman’s to lose
By Michael Bamberger
HOYLAKE, England—The great big Spaniard had made it in, to the house. Not that he ever looked worried about getting there. Jon Rahm does frustrated and annoyed and surprised like few others, but not worried. But when you’re going low you want to get in the house because nothing lasts forever.
Rahm was in. His 63 was signed, sealed and delivered and now came the first part of the rest of his Saturday. His workday was over, but sunset was six hours away. Rahm grew up on the four-hour family dinner, but that was then and that was there. His agent looked at him.
The great big Spaniard is the most verbal of men, in his native tongue or his adopted one, but he’s a world-class expressive on the silent gesture, too.
His shoulders went up. His chin swiveled in the direction of his right shoulder. His lower lip curled like a baby wave at the sea.
His face said it all. His face spoke volumes. It was all good.
He went to the Mixed Zone—the peculiar name of a tented area where reporters pose questions to golfers standing on a riser—and talked about his round and his day.
Over the first few days, you look frustrated.
To be fair, I often look frustrated.
A course-record 63. Seve his own self—Severiano Ballesteros—never shot 63 in a British Open, though his name appears on the Claret Jug three times.
I’d rather win three Opens and never shoot 63.
Above the tent, above the course, above the beach beside it, above the sea, the sky was a silver-gray. The threat of rain trumped the promise of sunshine. The greens were water-stained. They were every shade of green and brown. You could putt them. You can’t putt the Augusta National greens—they can barely putt the Augusta National greens—but you can rack up a bunch of two-putt greens here.
Shubhankar Sharma of India played with Jason Day of Australia. They talked about Columbus, Ohio, where Day now lives. They spoke English. Sharma speaks English, Hindi and Pujabi. He grew up playing military courses all over India. The courses had trees. The weather was hot and humid. The world is hot pretty much everywhere right now, though not here. Most players were wearing short sleeves but there were some vests, there were some sweaters, there were some windbreakers, though not much wind.
“The wind is very heavy here, so even a five-, six-, seven mile-an-hour breeze can make a 20-yard difference especially if you’re hitting it up in the air,” Cameron Young said. Anybody who has made it this far in is an expert in golf. Part of golf is wind.
“But the last four holes were weird,” Young added. “We were trying to find some wind and it wasn’t there. There was a little in our face on 18, which made it play very long. But it’s almost strange when it’s that calm out there.”
Young shot a 66 on Saturday. Sharma shot a 70. They both seemed happy. Young has a chance to do what he did last year, finish second in the British Open. Maybe he can improve on that. Maybe. Sharma has made the cut in his two British Open appearances and both times he finished in a tie for 51st. Maybe he can improve on that. He most likely will (he’s T-9), but he still has to do it, go out, play in, sign for his number.
Young distributed signed golf balls to the small army that followed him around the course: the scorer, the kid holding the scores, the bunker man and all the rest. More people than Young had balls. “If you guys make it over to scoring with me, I’ve got two more,” he said, appropriately. His father is a head pro in New York, at Sleepy Hollow. A senior event used to be played there, but that was a long time ago. Some people call him Cam, but Young prefers his given name with all seven letters. If only you could use proper nouns in Scrabble. C. Young has been on a lot of leaderboards these last couple of years.
Everybody was hoping for Brian Harman to make an X, or, as tournament golf doesn’t allow for such a marking, a snowman or a moose or something to make this a tournament. Nobody would ever admit to that. Of course not. It wouldn’t be appropriate. But Harman was five shots ahead of his closest pursuer when he started the day, and he stayed that way for pretty much the entire back nine. The field needed help.
Eighteen at Royal Liverpool was playing long, a 600-yard par-5 playing like an actual par-5. Harman is about Rory McIlroy’s height without his strength. Beautiful rhythm, though. Beautiful left-handed swing.
His third shot on the home hole was about 20 yards left and short of the green, in a fluffy, damp lie. So not hard. But he had to carry a bunker. It was weirdly quiet. No punters or lads or drinkers making noise. All day long, the loudest sound, pretty much, was the shrill song from various gulls.
He could have thinned it into the face of the bunker. He could have made his biggest mistake of the day. He pitched it up there beautifully, breathed a sigh of relief, made a short one for par, signed for 69, called it a day, five shots ahead of Young, six shots ahead of Rahm.
That sigh of relief. His face said it all. His face spoke volumes. It was all good.
Michael Bamberger welcomes your comments at [email protected]
Michael Bamberger was briefly a caddie on the PGA and European Tours, invented a golf club (the E-Club) that Lee Trevino used in his final British Open, spent 22 years as a writer at Sports Illustrated and joined the Firepit Collective in May 2022.
email: [email protected]