Bubble boys jockey for position at Wyndham
August 17, 2017
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
Harold Varner closes hot front nine with birdie at Wyndham
GREENSBORO, N.C. – A short, and selective, memory is important for a professional athlete. Quickly forgetting poor results, while putting a white-knuckle grip around the good ones, is key to success.
Harold Varner III is fighting for a spot in the FedExCup Playoffs, and his PGA TOUR card, this week at the Wyndham Championship. He had opportunities to clinch his spot in the all-important top 125 in his previous two starts, but struggled both times.
When asked if he used those close calls for motivation, Varner said he didn’t remember them. At least until he was reminded of them by a reporter.
“I had already forgotten until you said something,” said Varner, who’s 138th in the FedExCup. “It's just a part of golf. I didn't execute the shots like I did today and I learned from it.”
Varner got off to another strong start at the Wyndham Championship, shooting a 7-under 63 in the first round. He’ll need a high finish to qualify for next week’s THE NORTHERN TRUST.
So far, so good. He’s tied for third place, two shots behind leader Matt Every, and projected to jump 25 spots in the FedExCup standings.
“I knew I needed to play well,” Varner said. “It was nice to do that.”
He wasn’t the only bubble boy to shoot 63 on Thursday. Sam Saunders, who’s trying to qualify for the FedExCup Playoffs for the first time, made birdie at his last hole to also shoot 7 under par.
Saunders is No. 127 in the FedExCup. Saunders and Varner both played Thursday afternoon, and will benefit from easier morning conditions Friday.
Saunders is just seven FedExCup points behind No. 125 Geoff Ogilvy, who shot 70 on Thursday. Varner, who’s 39 points behind Ogilvy, likely needs a top-20 finish to crack the top 125.
“It almost makes it easier because you let it go,” Varner said. “If you try to hold on to something, you're not going to do as well.”
Varner is in a unique position. He’s fighting for his TOUR card after playing a World Golf Championship in his previous start. He qualified for the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational after winning last year’s Australian PGA.
He was T13 halfway through two rounds in his birthplace of Akron, but fired 7 over par (73-74) on the weekend to fall to 50th. He earned just seven FedExCup points that week.
One week earlier, he was T11 after 54 holes at the RBC Canadian Open. He fell 12 spots on the leaderboard with a final-round 72 (on a day when the scoring average was 70.5).
Saunders is coming off consecutive top-20 finishes, a T19 in Canada and an eighth-place finish two weeks ago at the Barracuda Championship. His two top-10s this season match his career-high, while his seven top-25s are the best of his career.
“I was pretty nervous, to be honest, coming into this week because I know it's an important week for me,” he said. “The anticipation is the hardest part. Once you get out there and start hitting balls, you realize, ‘I’m playing really good golf and I’ve got control of what I’m doing.’