POTOMAC FALLS: In his 11-year professional career, Harold Varner III has won individual trophies in Australia and Saudi Arabia. With his RangeGoats GC, he celebrated a LIV Golf League team trophy earlier this year in Singapore.
But the 32-year-old resident of North Carolina had never won on American soil until Sunday, when he captured the LIV Golf DC trophy with a final-round 4-under 68 for a one stroke victory over hard-charging Branden Grace.
In winning on the outskirts of the nation’s capital on Memorial Day weekend in front of the largest crowd to attend a LIV Golf tournament in the US, Varner becomes the second different RangeGoats player to win this season, joining good friend Talor Gooch, who won back-to-back titles in Adelaide and Singapore.
“Very special,” Varner said. “I’ve never won in America. It’s my favorite country.”
Varner did not get to enjoy a champagne celebration with his team, though. The Spanish-speaking Torque GC won for the second time this season, shooting a final-round counting score of 9 under to finish at 27 under, beating the South African Stinger GC by three shots, with the RangeGoats taking third.
“It’s good, but at the end of the day, I really wanted to celebrate with the RangeGoats,” Varner said. “That’s my team.”
Varner produced several clutch moments Sunday at Trump National Washington D.C., none bigger than his hole-out from the bunker for birdie at the par-4 11th to take the lead. His tee shot at the par-3 15th set up another birdie to give him a two-stroke lead.
But Grace, who lost in a playoff to Dustin Johnson two weeks ago in Tulsa, birdied two of his last three holes, including his final hole, the par-4 second, to tie Varner at 11 under. “I played flawless all day,” said Grace after his bogey-free 6-under 66, the only bogey-free round in the field this week. “Nice to make a putt like that when it matters.”
At the time, Varner was about to play his second shot at the par-5 18th. His 6-iron from 197 yards landed on the front edge of the green and settled 40 feet from the pin, setting up his two-putt birdie for the win.
“I knew exactly what I had to do, when I had to do it, how I have to do it,” Varner said. “I love that. That’s why you play, that moment.”
Varner’s victory prevented Torque from sweeping both trophies. Torque’s Mito Pereira led Varner by one stroke to start the day but wasn’t as sharp as the previous rounds en route to shooting 71 to finish third.
Even so, his lengthy eagle putt on the par-5 13th was a key moment in Torque’s tight battle with Stinger GC, which was looking for its second consecutive team win after claiming the title in Tulsa.
“My irons weren’t very good today,” Pereira said. “Happy to finish third and obviously wanted to win. But we won as a team, so that’s pretty sick, too.”
David Puig, the 21-year-old from Spain and LIV Golf’s youngest player this season, provided Torque with its best counting score, a 6-under 66 that tied Grace for the low round of the day. Sebastián Muñoz added a 70 to tie for fourth on the individual leaderboard.
The win moves Torque to third in the season-long team standings behind last year’s champions, 4Aces GC, and Stinger GC. But Torque Captain Joaquin Niemann likes how his team is performing going into the second half of the 14-event season.
“We won already two times and obviously the more important win is the last one of the end of the year,” Niemann said, pointing to the Team Championship. “I think this is good to prove to all the other teams that we are the team to beat.”
As for Varner, his plans to celebrate his first win in the U.S. include a round of golf on the Monday holiday with his friends at a municipal course.
“I love playing golf,” he said. “That’s my favorite thing. I’m going to play tomorrow. It’s going to be awesome.”
Here are the standings and counting scores for Sunday’s final round of the team competition at LIV Golf DC. The three best scores from each team count in every round for their total team score. The team with the lowest cumulative score after three rounds wins the team title.
1. TORQUE GC (-27): David Puig 66, Sebastián Muñoz 70, Mito Pereira 71 (Rd. 3 score: -9)
2. STINGER GC (-24): Branden Grace 66, Charl Schwartzel 70, Louis Oosthuizen 71 (Rd. 3 score: -9)
3. RANGEGOATS GC (-19): Harold Varner III 68, Talor Gooch 71, Wade Ormsby* 73 (Rd. 3 score: -4) *Reserve
4. CRUSHERS GC (-15): Bryson DeChambeau 70, Charles Howell III 70, Anirban Lahiri 71 (Rd. 3 score: -5)
5. MAJESTICKS GC (-14): Henrik Stenson 71, Laurie Canter 71, Lee Westwood 72 (Rd. 3 score: 27)
6. 4ACES GC (-14): Pat Perez 71, Peter Uihlein 71, Dustin Johnson 73 (Rd. 3 score: -1)
7. CLEEKS GC (-10): Graeme McDowell 71, Martin Kaymer 71, Bernd Wiesberger 71 (Rd. 3 score: -3)
8. IRON HEADS GC (-9): Scott Vincent 69, Danny Lee 72, Kevin Na 72 (Rd. 3 score: -3)
9. FIREBALLS GC (-8): Carlos Ortiz 70, Abraham Ancer 74, Sergio Garcia 74 (Rd. 3 score: +2)
10. HYFLYERS GC (-8): Cameron Tringale 70, Brendan Steele 71, Phil Mickelson 76 (Rd. 3 score: +1)
11. RIPPER GC (-7): Matt Jones 69, Marc Leishman 72 , Cameron Smith 72 (Rd. 3 score: -3)
12. SMASH GC (+2): Brooks Koepka 70, *Kieran Vincent 72, Chase Koepka 72 (Rd. 3 score: -2) *Reserve