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Harold Varner III struggles to 81 in final round of PGA Championship

Sam Farmer, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Golf

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. -- Harold Varner III is a regular guy, and Sunday he found himself doing something a lot of regular guys have done.

Searching for a golf ball in the woods at Bethpage Black.

Problem was, he was in the final pairing of the PGA Championship, tied for second and playing alongside the tremendous Brooks Koepka, who began the round with the largest 54-hole lead (seven strokes) in the history of major championships.

So the fact Varner had lost his shot in the trees on the par-five fourth hole was not a helpful development. Koepka went over to assist, but Varner never found his ball. That was in the middle of Varner's devastating stretch on the front nine of double, double, bogey, par, bogey, par, bogey. The clouds had rolled in, the wind was snapping the flags and his day was pretty much done.

Varner shot an 11-over-par 81 to tumble into a tie for 36th.

"I thought it was going to be hard when I was on the range, and it was just blowing 30 (mph)," said Varner, who was 14 strokes better Saturday. "My goal was to hit a lot of fairways, and I didn't do a lot of that. The course is just so hard if you don't hit it in play."

 

Even so, it was a tremendous tournament for Varner, 28, one of three African American players on the PGA Tour, along with Tiger Woods and Cameron Champ, and the first to earn his tour card via the Web.com Tour.

He's friends with Woods and NBA great Michael Jordan, and said he got encouraging texts from both Saturday night. In so many words, each told him to "keep it simple." He had never reached these heights in a major championship, having played in four before this one. He had failed to make the cut in three of those, and finished tied for 66th in the 2016 British Open.

"I'm sure they probably texted me already," he said with a smile after his round. "But I'm going to get better. ... I'm just going to do what I know what to do. I know what it takes to get there. I don't have to do anything else out of the realm of what I believe I can do."

Varner has an agreeable personality, but found himself a little annoyed by some of the shouting spectators, many of whom thought they were far more clever than they actually were.

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