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Harold Varner III had been leading for the majority of the final round in Jeddah. However, with only two holes remaining, one of his nearest challengers, Bubba Watson, would finish with an incredible birdie-eagle finish to set the clubhouse target at 12-under-par.
Needing an identical run to his fellow countryman, Varner III would tap-in for birdie at the 17th before rolling in an eagle putt at the last which measured some 100-feet, with his identical finish giving him the biggest win of his career at the Saudi International.
"That was a lot of fun!" explained Varner III. "I just played super steady and produced some great up and downs and that last hole just capped it off. Hats off to Bubba, he played great because it was tough today, especially when the wind got up. I feel like I have been playing well and that was just awesome!
"The leaderboard on the 17th tee updated and I just thought 'let's get it on'. I wanted to win and it's just nice to play well. Sometimes you feel you are playing well and it doesn't work out, but this time it worked out in my favour and I am going to really enjoy it".
UNBELIEVABLE SCENES! 😱😱Harold Varner III drains a massive putt from off the front edge for eagle and wins the Saudi International by one shot over Bubba Watson! 🏆 pic.twitter.com/yjoybZE3nAFebruary 6, 2022
Beginning the final round, it seemed to be a day that would test the world's elite, with the wind really picking up as the players at the top of the leaderboard began their remaining 18 holes.
On a day where par was a good score, it was Varner III who started at the top of the pile, with his three previous rounds in the 60s giving him a one shot advantage over Spaniard, Adri Arnaus. However, through the first nine holes, that lead was no more, with Arnaus producing a one-under front nine to square things up at the top.
A run of pars though for Varner III, saw him regain his lead, in fact, doubling it from where it was at the start of the day. The American was sitting pretty with a two shot margin midway through the back nine.
But a poor approach on 14 was punished severely, with a double-bogey giving hope to those behind in the congested pack. One of the players it seemed to inspire, was Bubba Watson, who followed a great front nine with a birdie-eagle finish at the 17th and 18th. His closing few holes were that good, it actually put him outright first by two shots. This was on a day where he started six shots back of the leader.
Knowing what marker was laid down, Varner III would follow Watson with a good birdie from the greenside bunker on the 17th. Now needing a birdie to tie and an eagle to win, the American carved his drive right and just avoided the desert. Playing his second safely short of the 18th green, it looked like the 31-year-old was going to settle for a two-putt birdie and a shot at victory in the play-off.
Although it seemed that way, nobody could have predicted what was about to transpire! Facing an eagle putt which sloped severely from right to left and was measured at some 100-feet, the American stepped up, catching the slopes of the Royal Greens Golf and Country Club's 18th green perfectly to drop-in for an unlikely eagle, and a one shot win which garnered a fantastic reaction from Varner III.
The win was his first in six years and also means that he creeps into the world's top-50 for the first time in his career. An even nicer touch was that the first person who congratulated Varner III was Bubba Watson, the man who had just seen his chances of a title slip away in the most dramatic way possible.
Matt studied Sports Journalism at Southampton Solent University, graduating in 2019. Now a freelance writer for Golf Monthly and the PGA, he covers all aspects of the game, from Tour news to equipment testing and buyers’ guides. Taking up the game at the age of six, Matt currently holds a handicap of 3 and despite not having a hole in one…yet, he has had two albatrosses. His favourite player is Rory McIlroy, despite nearly being struck by his second shot at the 17th during the 2015 BMW PGA Championship.
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