Ryder Cup 2023: After 'whirlwind' year and British Open win, Brian Harman ready for debut in Italy

For most of his professional golf career, things weren’t going great for Brian Harman.

Entering last season on the PGA Tour, Harman had won just twice since turning pro in 2009, a span which covered more than 300 starts. He wasn’t making much noise whatsoever, and he knew it.

"If I'm being honest, I was embarrassed," he told The Athletic's Brendan Quinn this week. "I was embarrassed by my career."

But now, at long last, the 36-year-old is set to make his Ryder Cup debut this week at the Marco Simone Golf and Country Club outside of Rome — marking the end of what has been an incredible stretch of golf for Harman in the back half of the year.

"It's been a whirlwind," Harman said in Italy on Wednesday. "Really excited to be here. It's been a lot the last couple of months, but super elated."

Harman, after a great run during the Tour’s fall season last year where he racked up back-to-back runner-up finishes, then struggled at the beginning of the year. He missed eight cuts in 13 starts, including at both the Masters and the PGA Championship.

Yet finally, after making it through the weekend at the U.S. Open in Los Angeles, it clicked. Harman finished no worse than T12 over the next month, which culminated with his dominant six-shot win at the British Open. Nobody came close to him at Royal Liverpool, and it vaulted him both into Ryder Cup contention and into the top-10 of the Official World Golf Rankings for the first time in his career.

It was that win, and his run through the Tour Championship, that secured a guaranteed spot on Zach Johnson’s team this week. Johnson, who lives next to Harman in Georgia and has been friends with him for a long time, knows his game fits well into the Ryder Cup format. After all, he’s proved he can handle a major moment on European soil already.

"He is a bulldog and he is feisty," Johnson said, via Golfweek. "Just tough, relentless, gritty and he wants his back against the wall. So I don't know how he's going to play in the Ryder Cup, but I'd be willing to bet that the best of Brian Harman probably will come out at some point during that week."

Harman already got a taste of what he’s stepping into during his win at the British Open earlier this summer, too, where plenty of fans at Hoylake were openly cheering against him when England’s Tommy Fleetwood was still in range of lifting the Claret Jug.

The Ryder Cup is sure to be much worse in that regard for Harman and the Americans, who haven't won the event in Europe since 1993 — though they opened as a slight favorite to do so on BetMGM.

"I don't think there's any way to prepare for it," Harman said Wednesday. "I expect them to be as fervent and I expect to be at times overwhelmed by it, just like I was at the Open Championship. It was overwhelming at times. The best you can do is just acknowledge it and just move forward and try not to let it affect you as best you can."

Harman is in a unique position on the U.S. team this week, as both a rookie and the oldest man in the group. Where Johnson opts to play Harman early on this week in the foursomes and fourball matches is anybody's guess, though Harman isn't too concerned.

After what he’s been through, he’s just excited to be there.

"I don't envy Zach's job at all. I'd be happy to play with any of the guys," Harman said. "They're all super talented and they've won a lot of golf tournaments and they're all very, very good … I'm honored anyone would want to play with me. They'll get my best, and that's all I can do."

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