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Harold Varner, one of three African Americans on tour, answers 'Tiger' chants with solid play

Joe Juliano, The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News on

Published in Golf

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. -- Harold Varner III couldn't help but laugh Saturday as he heard the crowds on his walk around Bethpage Black in the third round of the PGA Championship.

"It's fine. I like it," he said. "Some of the stuff they say cracks me up. They are like, 'Tiger, Tiger,' so that one always gets me."

Varner, 28, who grew up in Gastonia, N.C., is the one of three African-American players competing on the PGA Tour, joining Tiger Woods and tour rookie Cameron Champ. The fans may have kidded with him Saturday, but he attracted their attention more for his golf, firing a 3-under-par 67 that left him in a four-way tie for second behind Brooks Koepka.

Varner is playing in his fourth major championship -- his first major was the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion as an alternate -- but this is the first time he made the 36-hole cut. He managed the pressure and the tough scoring conditions Saturday on the Black course without carding a single bogey, and finished up by making a 6-foot birdie putt at No. 18.

As the first player to post a score of 205, Varner will play in Sunday's final pairing with Koepka.

"It's awesome," he said. "It's a great opportunity. It's going to be a great day no matter what happens. This is what you practice for, and obviously I'm super excited. I just need to go home and eat and do it again. I'm super excited for the opportunity."

Koepka has dominated play the first three days, setting a record for lowest 36-hole score in any major on Friday, and concluding Saturday's round with a 7-stroke lead, another record. Varner is impressed.

"The first thing that comes to mind is I think it's great for golf," he said. "If you don't go to sleep and think, 'Man, this makes me want to work harder, if I can be that good,' then I don't know why you're playing.

 

"You can't sit there and just weep and be like, he's so much better. I think that's going to push you. It almost (ticks) me off. That's what I think."

Varner advanced to the PGA Tour in 2016 off the Web.com Tour money list, the first African American to gain that promotion. In his fourth year on the Tour, he has no victories but he has a prestigious win to his credit in the 2017 Australian PGA Championship.

"I don't think it hurts at all," he said of the Australian PGA experience. "Yeah, it definitely helps. I think winning produces winning.

"I'm super excited. What's the worst thing that's going to happen out there? I'll be all right."

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