Golf: Harold Varner III wins Saudi International

American Harold Varner III celebrates his stunning victory. (Supplied photo)
American Harold Varner III celebrates his stunning victory. (Supplied photo)

The 31-year-old headed into Sunday's final round with a one-shot lead over Spain's Adri Arnaus

By Team KT

Published: Mon 7 Feb 2022, 12:40 AM

American American Harold Varner III Varner III drained a colossal 92-foot putt for an 72nd hole eagle and the PIF Saudi International title, beating close friend Bubba Watson by a single stroke. Varner III needed only a birdie four to take two-time Masters champion Watson to a play-off on the final day of the $5million tournament, being played at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City.

However, his snaking effort from the fairway of the closing hole was judged to perfection, dropping into the cup to his elation, sparking scenes of wild celebration between the Ohio-native and his caddie, Chris Rice.

“I’m just trying to take it in,” said Varner III in his post-match press conference. “Winning just never gets old. I just know that there’s been times where it just didn’t go my way and today it did. I’m super thrilled not just for myself, but everyone that’s either on my team or in my corner.”

The 31-year-old headed into Sunday’s final round with a one-shot lead over Spain’s Adri Arnaus. By the time they made the turn, they were equal at the summit — with a five-under-par front-nine 30 establishing Watson as the pair’s only real contender.

Watson’s back nine proved a little more inconsistent, but a closing eagle on 18 cemented him a two-shot clubhouse lead as Varner III and Arnaus battled to bogey fours on Royal Greens’ iconic 16th hole, as the course’s infamous afternoon winds picked-up.

A well-taken birdie on 17 put the American in need of a closing birdie to take his good friend Watson to a deciding play-off. However, Varner III had other ideas.

Opting to putt from the fairway on 18, his stroke traversed the undulating green, picking-up just enough speed as it passed beyond the plateau to continue its move right-to-left and drop into the cup.

“It was awesome,” said Varner III, looking back at the momentous putt. “Obviously that it went in kind of helped!

“When I was coming down the hill, worst case scenario [was that] we’ll go to a play-off, and I’d get him there. And then it went in, and emotions came out. I love that. When I play with my boys, that’s the emotion I want to see. That’s why you play. Competition, it’s the greatest thing in the world.”

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