In praise of Harry Higgs, the new Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green recordholder and a most memorable day

JERSEY CITY, N.J. – On this rare day of rest on the PGA Tour, let’s take a moment to revisit a record that was set during Thursday’s first round of the Northern Trust at Liberty National.

It slipped by without much fanfare – other than a few tweets – but since the tournament’s final round was postponed until Monday, let’s reflect on the Strokes Gain: Around the Green record set by the one, the only Harry Higgs.

It was Paul Tesori, caddie for Webb Simpson, who brought attention to Higgs’ heroics from off the green. He tweeted to stats guru Justin Ray asking if gaining 5.92 strokes on the field Around the Green was a record and Ray responded in the affirmative.

So, what got into Harry on Thursday? “I don’t know but I’m going to try to figure it out so he can do it more often,” his brother Alex said.

Adam Scott played in the same threesome with Higgs and a day later still marveled at the black magic act he had witnessed. “He had one of those days where they all go in,” Scott said. “The world is revolving perfectly for you when things like that happen.”

Indeed, they were. Higgs holed three putts from off the green and chipped in for par on another occasion. The fun started happening for Higgs at the 13th, his fourth hole of the day, after he missed the par-5 with his second shot. Using a putter from 50 feet, he holed out for eagle.

“The first one that he putted in from way off the green hit Wyndham’s (Clark’s) coin like 30 feet from the hole, hopped up and still went in,” said Scott.

Of having Clark’s coin on his line, Higgs said, “It was in a perfect spot. Figured I didn’t need him to move it since I was off the green.”

From there, Higgs made run-of-the mills birdies at Nos. 16 and 6 that was offset by a string of three bogeys beginning at 17.

After hitting his tee shot in the water at the fifth, Higgs chipped in with his 60-degree wedge to save par from 34 feet left of the green. Then his TaylorMade Spider putter, which he’s used since playing the 2018 Korn Ferry Tour, took over. First, he made a bomb at the seventh for birdie.

Harry Higgs

The weapons Harry Higgs used to set the Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green record. (Adam Schupak/Golfweek)

“To call a 79-footer easy is a little aggressive but it broke right and went back to the left and so if you hit it the right speed it’ll just auto correct,” he said.

It may go down as an obscure record but Higgs wiped Patrick Reed’s name from the ShotLink record books (+5.84 in the third round of the 2017 U.S. Open) and etched his own in its place in memorable fashion. Higgs came up 80 feet short of the green at the ninth, his last hole of the day, with his approach to the par 4. No problem: by this point, Higgs was feeling it.

“If that’s as close as you’re going to get to the hole, you might as well try to hole them,” he said.

And so he drained another bomb.

“That was a bonus,” he said of his uphill, walk-off putt to close out a wild way to 2-shoot 2-under 69. “I told myself I have to think like I’m going to hit it off the green to get it all the way there.”

Here’s the thing: Scott said it’s “scary” to think what his strokes gained would’ve been if Higgs hadn’t half-chunked a chip at 17 and failed to chip on to the green from the tall stuff on 18.

“It should’ve, could’ve been even better,” Higgs conceded. “But that’s the story of this lovely game we play.”

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