Varner's 81 at PGA worst round in final group of a major

Harold Varner III hits out of the rough on the 16th hole during the final round of the PGA Championship golf tournament, Sunday, May 19, 2019, at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, N.Y. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Harold Varner drives off the seventh tee during the final round of the PGA Championship golf tournament, Sunday, May 19, 2019, at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, N.Y. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Harold Varner III lines up a putt on the third hole during the final round of the PGA Championship golf tournament, Sunday, May 19, 2019, at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, N.Y. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Harold Varner III hits out of a bunker on the 11th hole during the final round of the PGA Championship golf tournament, Sunday, May 19, 2019, at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, N.Y. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Brooks Keopka motions to the direction of his shot off the 12th tee as Harold Varner III looks on during the final round of the PGA Championship golf tournament, Sunday, May 19, 2019, at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, N.Y. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Harold Varner III drives off the first tee during the final round of the PGA Championship golf tournament, Sunday, May 19, 2019, at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, N.Y. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Harold Varner III reacts after sinking a putt for birdie on the first green during the final round of the PGA Championship golf tournament, Sunday, May 19, 2019, at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, N.Y. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. — After getting supportive messages from Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan the night before, Harold Varner III could not have had a better start to the final round of the PGA Championship.

The 28-year-old birdied the first hole at Bethpage Black playing in the final pairing to draw within five strokes of eventual champion Brooks Koepka, who bogeyed the hole.

It was the best thing to happen to Varner on Sunday.

The 174th-ranked player in the world shot an 11-over 81 and went from sole possession of second place to finishing tied for 36th with a 6-over score.

It marked the first time a player in the last pairing on the final day of a major shot in the 80s.

"Man, it's just rough. It was hard. It was really hard," said Varner, whose only win was in the 2017 Australian PGA championship. "I just didn't play well enough. It was a great experience. I'm going to get a lot better. It's just a hard golf course. I don't know, I don't know. It's good."

Varner finished with one birdie, three double bogeys, six bogeys and eight pars.

His first double came at the par-3 No. 2. He missed the green, chipped to 11 feet and three-putted.

The worst hole was the par-5, 524-yard No. 4. His 324-yard tee shot landed in stalk-like grass. His second went sideways into the woods, and the ball was lost. Even Koepka came to help, but to no avail.

"I had about 30 seconds left," Varner said of the search. "I didn't think we were going to find it anyways. I didn't really look for my golf ball. I thought I was screwed."

Varner had to return to the native area and eventually took a 7.

Nothing good happened after that and it seemed Varner just tried to play fast the rest of the way on a very windy, difficult day.

"That was crazy," he said. "But it happens. I just — mine happened on the last day. I'm going to get a lot better. It was just really hard. I don't know what else to say."

Varner said his opening rounds of 71, 67 and 67 convinced him he is good enough to compete with the best on the PGA Tour. It just didn't happen on Sunday, and he was ticked off, although he never ducked a question.

"I was right there," he said. "Gosh, it was a lot of fun, man. It was something I've never felt before. So it was pretty cool."

Varner didn't disclose exactly what Woods, who didn't make the cut, said to him, other than to keep it simple. The rest was smack talk between golfers. (Varner, who is also African American, said earlier in the weekend that he was enjoying the give-and-take with the fans, even the ones who called him "Tiger.")

What really bothered Varner and was completely out of his — and Koepka's control — were some fans yelling for Koepka to choke after Dustin Johnson drew close.

"I have a few choice words for that," said Varner, whose week began with plans to play a practice round with Woods on the eve of the tournament until Woods called in sick. "I thought it was pretty weird how they were telling Brooks to choke. That's not my cup of tea. I was pulling for him after that."

___

For more AP golf coverage: https://apnews.com/apf-Golf and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

People also read these

92 minutes on court, lifetime of experience for...

Jan 16, 2017

Destanee Aiava's Australian Open lasted just 92 minutes Monday while making history as the first...

Nadal holds off Zverev to reach 4th round at...

Jan 21, 2017

Rafael Nadal had a good, hard look at the future before pulling a few tricks from his past to hold...

Bryan brothers announce retirement from Davis Cup...

Jan 22, 2017

Bob and Mike Bryan are retiring from playing Davis Cup for the United States after 14 years with...

Confident Vandeweghe on strong run at Australian...

Jan 24, 2017

On the court, CoCo Vandeweghe is all bluster and bravado, an all-or-nothing ball striker with a...

The Latest: Nadal beats Raonic, returns Grand...

Jan 25, 2017

Rafael Nadal has beaten Milos Raonic 6-4, 7-6 (7), 6-4 to reach the Australian Open semifinals,...

Get your 24-hour live updates here in Ultimate Sports Daily. We deliver content from all regions so that you won’t miss out on any single event.

Contact us: sales[at]ultimatesportsdaily.com