For a moment it appeared as if Bubba Watson’s birdie-eagle finish would earn him at least a spot in a playoff Sunday at the Saudi International.
Instead, it was Harold Varner III playing his final two holes in 3 under, capped by a dramatic eagle make at the par-5 closing hole at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club, to notch the outright victory.
Varner, the 54-hole leader, was leaking oil coming in, double-bogeying the par-4 14th and then dropping another shot at the par-3 16th hole. Watson, meanwhile, got in the clubhouse at 12 under and waited as the final pairing finished up.
“I walk up to 17, and we’re tied. We have to wait until they get off the green. While we’re on the tee, I see he goes to 12, so I’m like, damn, all right, so I’m two back,” Varner said. “I’m like, just get something up there, give myself a chance to make birdie. 18, you know, obviously anything can happen.
“I just never doubted myself. I never questioned that, hey, we can’t win this. I think that’s what the greats do. I would think a couple years ago I would have had a hard time taking that in and being like I have to do this.”
Full-field scores from PIF Saudi International
After a birdie at No. 17, Varner’s second shot into the last green came up just short – about 92 feet, according to Varner’s caddie, Chris Rice – though Varner opted to putt anyway. A good lag would give Varner a solid look at birdie and playoff with Watson. An improbable eagle make would end it there.
Varner pulled off the improbable, immediately dropping his putter and celebrating with his caddie.
“When I was coming down the hill … worst-case scenario, we’ll go to a playoff and I’d get him there,” Varner said. “And then it went in, and emotions came out. I love that. When I play with my boys, that’s the emotion I want to see. That’s why you play. Competition, it’s the greatest thing in the world.”