Harold Varner III has made more eagles this LIV Golf League season than any other player. Thanks to his two on Friday at LIV Golf DC, he now leads for the first time since becoming a member.
Fueled by eagles at the par-4 ninth and par-5 13th, Varner shot an 8-under 64 at Trump National Washington, D.C., to take a two-stroke advantage over James Piot, with Cameron Smith, Kevin Na, Mito Pereira and reserve Andy Ogletree tied for third at 4 under.
Brooks Koepka, who won the fifth major of his career at last week’s PGA Championship, shot an even-par 72 to provide his Smash GC team with its best counting score, despite having little prep work after arriving onsite Thursday afternoon and dealing with a cracked driver for more than half of Friday’s round.
“It felt good just to play golf again, kind of get it out of the way,” said Koepka after celebrating his fifth major win the last few days at home in South Florida. “Hopefully play a little better the next few days knowing the golf course a little bit more.”
On the team leaderboard, Varner’s RangeGoats GC share the lead with Iron Heads GC at 10 under, with Piot’s HyFlyers GC tied for third with Torque GC and 4Aces GC at 8 under.
Two weeks ago at LIV Golf’s previous event in Tulsa, Varner tied a League record low by shooting 61, a round that included two eagles. His two on Friday came in his first 10 holes, including his hole-out on the ninth hole. He now has 10 on the season.
“Holing out never gets old – and it makes it a lot easier,” said Varner. “… You just want to have eagle looks, honestly. If you do that – I got lucky. I made some long ones in Tulsa, chipped in, but that’s part of it. I feel like I’ve been working on it.”
Varner had a slow start to the 2023 LIV Golf season, finishing outside the points (top 24) in his first two starts. Since then, he’s made steady improvement with each appearance – 19th in Orlando, 17th in Adelaide, 9th in Singapore and 4th in Tulsa, and now the first-round lead in DC.
“The beginning of the year, I was kind of doing other stuff than playing golf,” he said. “If you just put your head down, I think good things happen. I want to play well. I don’t think I’m terrible at golf.”
The 24-year-old Piot has yet to record a points-producing top 24 finish this season. He entered this week 47th in the individual standings and knows the top 24 at the end of the regular season are guaranteed spots for next year, while the bottom four are subject to relegation.
“Yeah, it’s in the back of your head,” he said. “Obviously when it’s time to go, you’ve got to go. But at the same time for me, the goal is keep getting better, keep improving.
“Obviously I would love to play on the LIV tour as long as possible, but for me, as long as I keep improving, that’s really what I want to see right now. That’s my focus. Today was a good start, and hopefully we keep it going.”
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