May 26, 2022

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Varner fires 63 to seize PGA Heritage lead

Varner fires 63 to seize PGA Heritage lead

Harold Varner, chasing his first US PGA Tour title, fired a bogey-free eight-under par 63 to seize a one-stroke lead after Saturday’s third round of the RBC Heritage tournament.

The 31-year-old American stood on 11-under 202 after 54 holes at Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head, South Carolina.

That was good enough to edge one shot in front of Ireland’s Shane Lowry, South African Erik van Rooyen and American Patrick Cantlay, the reigning FedEx Cup champion.

“Having a clean card was really what I wanted to do, just give myself a lot of looks,” Varner said. “I was able to do that a lot and executed some putts as well. It was a lot of fun.”

Varner’s best US PGA finish in 178 prior starts was a runner-up effort at last year’s Heritage.

Varner’s score was one stroke shy of his lowest career PGA round, a 62 fired most recently at the first round in Greensboro in 2020, and one shy of Gil Morgan’s best third-round score in the event from 1995.

International titles for Varner include on the European Tour at the 2016 Australian PGA Championship and on the Asian Tour two months ago at the Saudi International.

“It just proves that I can win and I just want to do it here,” Varner said. “I feel like it just keeps giving me more confidence. The best thing that I can do is just run my course, like this is my journey.”

Varner birdied four of the first six holes, with 11-foot birdie putts at the par-3 fourth and par-4 sixth and at the par-5 second and fifth holes. He closed the front nine by blasting out of a bunker to just outside four feet and sinking the birdie putt.

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He also made birdie putts from three feet at the 12th, just inside 20 feet at the par-5 15th and 11 feet at the 16th.

Lowry made eight birdies against two bogeys, his final birdie on a putt from just outside eight feet at the 18th, to shoot 65 and put himself in the final group on Sunday.

The 2019 British Open champion’s only win on US soil came in the 2015 WGC Bridgestone Invitational.

“It was pretty good. I feel like, without complaining too much, 65 is the worst score I could have shot,” Lowry said.

“I hit the ball unbelievable today, and I didn’t really hole anything. That putt on the last is probably as long as I’ve holed all day.

“It was getting quite frustrating for a while, but I hit it in pretty close a couple of times and made a couple of nice birdies. It was really nice to birdie the last.”

Cantlay birdied the 18th from just inside five feet to finish on 70 for the round and join the penultimate pairing with Van Rooyen, who had a bogey-free 67.

“I had a nice finish, only one shot back going into tomorrow. I’m in a good spot,” Cantlay said.