HILTON HEAD ISLAND, SC (AP) – Harold Varner fired third 8-under 63 to take a lead at Saturday’s RBC Heritage in pursuit of his first PGA Tour victory.
Varner had eight birders on a no-stealth round to match Cameron Young’s opening score as the lowest point at Harbor Town Golf Links this week. Varner had 11 under 202.
Varner will need to have a perfectly crisp Sunday. FedEx Cup champion Patrick Cantlay, Ireland’s 2019 British Open winner Shane Lowry, and South African Eric Van Royen were all on alert.
Cantlay, the second-round leader, scored 70. Laurie’s shot 65, Van Roen 67.
Former RBC Legacy Champion Matt Kuchar, Hudson Swafford, Sepp Straka and Aaron Wise was nine years old. Swafford shot 66, Kuchar and Straka 67 and Wise 68.
Varner has two international victories, winning the Australian PGA Championship in 2016 and the Saudi International in February.
He seemed to shoot himself out of the competition with his finish on Friday, up 4 on the last four holes for 72. But it was a referee on the sixth that angered Varner – and pushed him to Saturday.
Varner’s tee shot a 4th out of bounds. Varner told officials that he saw a spectator pick up the ball that was eventually identified as a Varner ball and may have returned it beyond the out-of-bounds sign.
The decision stalled, Varner committed a double bogey and was angry about it. “I was going to say I’m really good at putting things aside,” he said, “but I didn’t put that aside.”
Instead, use the frustrated end to feed his run to the top. Varner made four of his first six holes—including that annoying sixth—and took the 10-foot lead for 16th.
Harbor Town is far from Farner’s favorite design — “It’s my favorite because we can drive here,” said Varner, who lives in Gastonia, North Carolina — although he’s finished second here last year and has shot in the ’60s on six of his past seven rides. .
Every shot here, Varner said, is “very uncomfortable.”
“I feel like I always steer her there,” he said. “But if you can get it there for the 72 holes, you can do some damage.”
Lowry also bounced back from 72 on Friday to snap up the lead. It was fickle at first, following the sparrows in the second and fifth holes with a ghost in the next hole. But he then established himself at 65, matching his declining run in Harbor Town.
Lowry said conditions, particularly storms of 20 mph or more on Friday, have eased and made the usually difficult path defenseless.
“Yesterday was just one of those days where you had to knock on doors,” Lowry said.
“At the time when I felt like any time you get a good number, you can really go to the flags. And I did and I made some good shots,” Lowry said.
He will need more from this Sunday if he is to hope for a third win in his career and first since the British Open in 2019.
Cantlay finished Friday with a shot — four straight 15-18 birdies, the toughest stretch of the course — to take a two-shot lead.
But he couldn’t find that look for most of the tour. Varner grabbed the sparrow on the 6th, 7th, and 9th holes, then returned with a bogey on the 11th and 12th. He drew inside Varner’s shot on the 18th hole, and his approach landed 5 feet away to seal a birdie.
She had some good, some not so good, Cantlay said. “But I’m in a really good place for tomorrow. Especially with this closing bird at 18, get a little bit of momentum, and obviously there I am.”
Tommy Fleetwood, who played over 3½ hours before Cantlay’s final pairing, scored 64 to give the first hint of a course to be had.
Maverick McNeely and Peter Malnate, like Laurie, were 65 years old. Swafford, Wyndham Clark and Graeme McDowell scored 66s. In all, 45 of the 71 contenders came under 70.
On Friday, no one shot less than 67 and only 19 of the 130 players scored in the 1960s.
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