By Bernie McGuire in Saudi Arabia.
Harold Varner III’s victory putt was so long it needed a visa with the American sensationally denying good friend and double Masters winning Bubba Watson to capture the Saudi International.
Varner III first landed his second shot into the downwind par-5 18th just on the front edge of the green in two, putting to a pin located the back left corner on the Royal Greens course. The American, one behind on the final tee, just needed to two-putt the last to ensure a play-off.
What happened next was remarkable with Varner III’s 92-footer finding the bottom of the cup for an eagle ‘3, handing him a round of 69 to win by a shot at 13-under with the new World No. 44 jumping about the course in excitement, and also into the jubilant arms of his England caddy Chris Rice.
The dramatic eagle putt that sealed the victory for Harold Varner III ⛳?@SaudiIntlGolf @HV3_Golf #SaudiIntlGolf #whereitsAT pic.twitter.com/1RIAI4jIaW
— Asian Tour (@asiantourgolf) February 6, 2022
Watson had set the clubhouse lead himself in landing a downwind 65-degree wedge to 12-feet at the last for an eagle ‘3’ and seized the lead with a score of 64 for a 12-under total.
Watson had finished three groups ahead of Varner III and while looking to win for the first time since a victory at the 2018 Travelers, the 43-year-old Florida golfer jumped for joy and raced out to greet Varner III.
The pair then walked side-by-side to the scorer’s hut ahead of the prize presentation where the enormity of Varner III’s only second success, since capturing the 2016 Australian PGA title was beginning to sink in.
“That last putt was just awesome and I felt sure when it rolled down the hill towards the flag that in a worst-case scenario, I would just putt out for a birdie and we’d go to a play-off and I’d get him there,” said Varner III.
“Then it went in and the emotions came out, and those emotions that when I play with my boys that is the emotion I want to see. That’s why you play as competition is the greatest thing in the world.
“It’s just awesome to win and it’s been pretty crazy since it happened, and I am just trying to take it in.
“Winning never gets old and there have been times when things have not gone my way, but I am just super-thrilled to win today. I am not only delighted for myself but everyone either on my team or in my corner. They know who they are. My mum has already called so it’s great.”
And no sooner had Varner made that remark and his phone rang. It was his wife Amanda ringing from their home in Charlotte, North Carolina, and just after 9 am local time
He responded: “Hey what are you doing?” His wife replied and then Varner III turned his phone around to show the press assembled in the room and said to his wife ‘Watch this’. There was then wild applause with Varner III saying to his wife: “I have to go back. I love you.”
Among the text messages, he is expecting to receive one also from good friend, Tiger Woods.
Watson, while disappointed not to have won, was genuinely excited for his friend and with the duo having spent many a night at the official hotel this week in the company of each other.
“It’s a dear friend of mine. It’s a guy I truly love. It’s a guy that I want to help,” said Watson.
“He’s new — when I say new, we know Harold, but it took me — it was five years until I won my first. So this is a guy that’s just starting to play better and better each year. We see his name a little bit more. He’s getting comfortable. He’s won before down in Australia, so just so happy for him.”
Shane Lowry’s Saudi campaign ended with a horrible three-putt bogey on the last, and after he was putting for a birdie ‘4’. Suffice to say, Lowry’s ball was then seen heading to the water hazard guarding the green.
Lowry had been five-under through 12 holes but then doubled the dog-leg right 14th before birdies at 15 and 16 to be six-under playing the last.
In coming to the last, Lowry was about 15-foot from the pin staring at a birdie ‘4’ but sent his putt around four-feet past the hole and missed his par attempt. His eventual round of a four-under 66 handed Lowry a share of 14th place.
“That’s not a nice way to end what was a pretty decent round,” he said.
“That’s me heading home and back to the States to see the family. It’s been three-weeks away and looking forward to seeing the girls.”
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