Epic Harman birdie edges top-ranked Johnson for title


WASHINGTON: Brian Harman sank a 28-foot birdie putt on the final hole Sunday to win the PGA Wells Fargo Championship, edging top-ranked Dustin Johnson and Pat Perez by a stroke.

Harman, whose only prior tour triumph came at the 2014 John Deere Classic, birdied the last two holes to deny fellow American Johnson a chance at his fourth consecutive PGA triumph in his comeback event after missing the Masters with a back injury.

“It’s a lot of emotion for sure,” Harman said. “I’ve been fighting really hard. I’ve been working really hard. This one feels pretty good.”

Harman fired a four-under par 68 to finish 72 holes on 10-under 278 at Eagle Point Golf Club in Wilmington, North Carolina  a one-year host for the event while its usual course, Quail Hollow in Charlotte, readies for the PGA Championship in August.

Johnson, who matched the day’s low round with his second consecutive 67, said he feels fit physically and mentally as he prepares to defend his US Open title next month at Erin Hills. He’ll face the world’s best again next week at the Players Championship.

“I’m happy with where the game is going into next week,” Johnson said. “Physically I’m really good. Everything is 100 percent. Feeling really great. I’m swinging it with no problems.

“Still have a lot of practice to do. I didn’t really know what to expect this week. I didn’t really get any practice time leading into this week.”

It looked as if Johnson, who only made the cut on the number, was destined for a playoff with Perez in his bid to become the first player with four wins in a row since Tiger Woods in 2008.

Harman missed a four-foot par putt at the par-3 15th to fall one adrift but sank a four-foot birdie putt at 17 to match clubhouse leaders Perez and Johnson.

His approach at 18 bounded well left of the green and his pitch left him an unlikely birdie putt to grab the lead, but he rammed it home and began a screaming, fist-pumping, high-five-filled celebration.

“It’s surreal,” Harman said. “Three-putted that 15th hole, knew it was going to be tough to birdie those last couple, but I stuck to my game plan and just got it done.”

Harman credited his success to “having a little more belief in myself, knowing I’m pretty good at what I do, staying in the moment and doing what I need to do.”

No Seve magic for Rahm

The only rival with a chance to catch Harman was Spaniard Jon Rahm, playing on the sixth anniversary of the death of Spanish legend Seve Ballesteros.

But there would be no repeat of the magic Sergio Garcia pulled off, winning the Masters for his first major title on what would have been Seve’s birthday.

Rahm made a bogey at 15 to fall one back of Perez and Johnson but could only muster three closing pars, his pitch for eagle miss at 18 ensuring Harman’s win.

“I was making the right swings,” Rahm said. “It just wasn’t getting close enough.”

DJ ‘playing phenomenal’

Johnson would have been only the fourth PGA player in eight seasons to win after making the cut on the number, the first since Brandt Snedeker last year and the first at this event since Rory McIlroy in 2010.

“The first couple days I was (rusty). I played a lot better this weekend. I’ve played really nicely, gave myself a lot of good looks at birdies.”

Johnson made an 18-foot birdie putt at the par-3 second and another from half that distance at the par-5 fourth. He made short birdie putts at 12 and 13, missed the green at 15 and 16 but pitched to three feet and sank tense par putts, then closed with a 15-foot birdie putt.

“Made a nice putt there on the last hole,” Johnson said. “I was happy with the way I rolled it.”

Perez had shocked himself, having played only once in two weeks as he moved into a new home, but was just as stunned by Johnson’s comeback effort.

“I can’t believe it, but I can,” Perez said of Johnson. “He’s incredible. He’s playing phenomenal right now.”