Golf

Masters: Brian Harman has stellar first round at Augusta National


AUGUSTA — In preparation for his third Masters appearance this week, Savannah native Brian Harman laid out a plan for playing Augusta National, stressing that he had to think his way around the course.

On Thursday, the 5-foot-7, 155-pounder from the University of Georgia did just that, posting a stellar 3-under-par 69 on a course that was playing extremely difficult. He was tied for first place not long after finishing his round with a flourish by draining a 12-foot birdie putt at No. 18.

The Savannah Christian Prep alumnus entered the week playing some of the best golf of his career. He was one of the last players to qualify for this 85th Masters — riding a third-place finish at The Players Championship and a semifinal berth in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play last month to break into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking and earn his invite.

Masters: Leaderboard | Photos

One of the keys to Harman’s 3-under-par round came on Nos. 5, 6 and 7, where Harman got up and down to save par three times. He made putts of 5 feet on the first two, and 5 feet on No. 7, after a drive hooked into the woods.

“I’m happy with where my short game is. It’s something I kind of neglected. I just kind of always took it for granted, and it’s something that I can’t really afford for it to be average — it’s got to be really good for me to contend,” said Harman, who missed the cut here in 2015 and tied for 44th in 2018. “If my iron game can pick up just a little bit, I think I can do OK.

“I feel like there’s still plenty of room in the game for a guy like me,” he said. “I don’t make any bones about not being able to carry it 300 (yards), but I don’t think you have to.”

Harman made birdies on three of the four par 5s, highlighted by a spectacular putt on No. 15. Harman had 212 to the green — a 4-iron. He said he hit a good shot, but with a gust of wind at his back he flew the green. A mediocre chip left him 34 feet for birdie.

He feathered the left-to-right putt with perfect weight, and it snuck into the cup on its final roll.

“I didn’t hit a very good chip, but I made a great putt there,” Harman said. “It was an Augusta special: sidedoor.”

Harman said it may have been beneficial to qualify late for the Masters so he didn’t have time to think too much about a tournament that means so much to him.

“The previous two times I’ve played here I certainly looked forward to it, and maybe prepared too much for it,” Harman said. “So I just kind of came in here and I know the course pretty well, I’ve played the course bunches of times. I love it around it here. It’s just a matter of having my game ready.”



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