Golf: Unheralded trio share Wyndham C'ship lead with 62s as stars Koepka and Rose get off to slow starts

Harold Varner was first in the clubhouse with a 62 that was fuelled by four straight birdies from the eighth through the 11th.
Harold Varner was first in the clubhouse with a 62 that was fuelled by four straight birdies from the eighth through the 11th.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Harold Varner fired eight birdies in shooting an eight-under 62 that put him in a three-way tie for the first-round lead on Thursday (Aug 13) at the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, North Carolina.

He matched his career-low round on the PGA Tour and shared the lead with fellow American Tom Hoge and Canadian Roger Sloan.

All three were in the clubhouse and two strokes clear of their nearest rival - Harris English - when thunderstorms halted play for the day.

The first round was set to resume on Friday morning, with round two still slated to start on schedule.

Varner, chasing his first tour title, was first in the clubhouse with a 62 that was fuelled by four straight birdies from the eighth through the 11th.

Birdies at the 13th and 15th meant a run of three birdies to the finish would give him a 59, although Varner said thoughts of golf's magic number never entered his head.

"I didn't think about it at all," he said. "Just trying to birdie every hole. You can go get it out here, obviously, with the scores, so I just knew that, you know, the gas pedal is on the right."

In fact, he parred his way in from the 15th, good enough to put him atop the leaderboard on a course just a couple hours' drive from his hometown of Gastonia, North Carolina.

He does not have the benefit of hometown fans this week with the PGA Tour still playing without spectators amid the coronavirus pandemic.

 

So a flirt with a 59 would have added some excitement on the largely quiet course.

"I wish I would have thought about it, just to get some more goosebumps," Varner said.

Hoge moved as low as nine under after rolling in a 14-foot eagle putt at the 15th and chipping in for his seventh birdie of the day at No. 16. But he closed with a bogey to settle for a share of the lead.

Sloan, meanwhile, birdied six of his first eight holes before a bogey at the ninth, then picked up three more birdies coming in.

English had seven birdies and a bogey in his six-under 64 and was one stroke in front of Wesley Bryan, Brian Harman, Kim Si-woo, Patrick Reed and Chesson Hadley.

Former US Open champion Webb Simpson was two over through four holes but roared back to head a group on 66.

"It's a golf course you can make a lot of birdies," Simpson said. "So as hard as it is in the moment, you've just got to stay patient and I did that."

Two Major champions who were in contention at the PGA Championship in San Francisco last week got off to a slow start, with Brooks Koepka firing a 72 and England's Justin Rose a three-over 73.