HV3 all smiles with 54-hole lead at 2022 RBC Heritage
On a February afternoon on the other side of the world, Harold Varner III was feeling the pressure. Down one stroke staring down a mammoth 92-foot eagle bid, Varner hoped for something that could set him up for a playoff-forcing birdie.
One putt was all that he needed for a career-defining win at the Saudi Invitational. Now, he’s 18 holes away from chasing another one of his elusive goals: a PGA Tour victory right here at Harbour Town.
After a sensational 8-under 63 on moving day, Varner will look to stay steady with a narrow one-shot lead entering the final day of the 2022 RBC Heritage presented by Boeing as he looks to fend off reigning FedEx Cup champion Patrick Cantlay and steady Irish star Shane Lowry.
Varner’s first few trips to Sea Pines as a pro were not the most memorable. He fell short of the cut line in 2018 and 2019 while struggling to adjust to the demands of Pete Dye’s small greens and thin fairways. It was never a course that played to his style, but in his last two starts, the Charlotte resident has discovered what it takes to tame the menacing track.
In his last seven rounds in Sea Pines, Varner has averaged a score of 67.3, nearly a full four strokes under par. The best players on the tour can find a way to win anywhere, and Varner’s ball-striking and accuracy have been good enough to outduel the swirling winds and the competition through this week’s first 54 holes.
It was back in 2015 when Varner first earned his PGA Tour card. The East Carolina product picked up his first pro victory in Australia a year later, cementing himself on the world golf stage. He developed a vibrant and exciting personality on the course with the game to back it up. Varner perfectly fits the definition of a pro’s pro, one who has gained respect from his peers and competitors and who will stop at nothing to show off his elite craft all while possessing one of the biggest swaggers on the PGA Tour. He represents his state well, wearing Michael Jordan’s signature Jumpman logo on his cap and shirt with stylish Jordans on his feet as he goes out to battle on the course.
Even more impressive than his strong play and dedication on tour has been his commitment to helping his community. Varner never forgets where he came from, and he has gone all in to support the big dreams of the next generation. He established the HV3 Foundation to provide kids with an opportunity to pursue youth sports. The cost of golf equipment, lessons, and rounds has been a barrier to entry for many juniors, but the HV3 Foundation is working to change that by giving tools to the next crop of stars to develop the passion and skills needed to succeed in golf and life.
Whether he takes home the tartan or not, Varner has already won big in Sea Pines with $5,000 donated to his foundation via Wednesday’s Carolina Challenge. It’s a sum of money that will go a long way to lighting the flame for boys and girls who will look to follow in Varner’s footsteps.
Winning any professional golf tournament is a career-shaping moment, but few have been more significant than Varner’s miracle in February. It was his first victory in nearly six full calendar years and inspired a huge wave of confidence that has carried into a T6 finish at The Players at TPC Sawgrass and a top-25 at The Masters. But Varner is far from satisfied with his strong start to 2022. He may have already won this year, but he’s still focused on notching that elusive first victory on the PGA Tour.
“I think it’s even more just because -- not that people doubt it, they’re just like, I’ve won in Australia, I’ve won somewhere else that I can’t speak of,” Varner said. “I mean, it just proves that I can win, and I just want to do it here.”
The biggest roar on Saturday may have come when Varner rolled in his final putt of the day to finish off his bogey-free 63 and secure his one-shot lead. But the kid from Akron, Ohio, knows that the job is far from done. In order to don the tartan at day’s end, Varner will have to do something he hasn’t done before: close out a Sunday lead on the PGA Tour.
Whether or not he lifts the trophy, he’s already won the support and respect as one of the best in the golfing world — on and off the course.