fb-pixel
Golf roundup

Harold Varner III grabs share of early lead at Wyndham Championship

Harold Varner III, watching his shot on the 18th hole during the first round of the Wyndham Championship, shot an 8-under 62 to grab a three-way share of the early lead on Thursday.
Harold Varner III, watching his shot on the 18th hole during the first round of the Wyndham Championship, shot an 8-under 62 to grab a three-way share of the early lead on Thursday.Chris Carlson/Associated Press

Harold Varner III, Tom Hoge and Roger Sloan each shot 8-under 62 on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Wyndham Championship, the PGA Tour's final regular-season event before the FedEx Cup playoffs.

Varner started the go-low parade at at Sedgefield Country Club with an eight-birdie, no-bogey round that matched his career best on the PGA Tour

Hoge and Sloan, playing together, followed suit later in the round, Hoge also matched his career low on tour, while Sloan's score set his personal best.

Roger Sloan drives on the 18th hole during the first round of the Wyndham Championship on Thursday.
Roger Sloan drives on the 18th hole during the first round of the Wyndham Championship on Thursday.Chris Carlson/Associated Press

There were 33 players on the course who had not finished when the round was suspended due to bad weather.

Advertisement



Hoge looked like he might have a shot at 59 after he went eagle-birdie on the 15th and 16th holes to reach 9 under.

But Hoge, who first played on the PGA Tour in 2015 and has never won, missed a 10-footer for birdie on the 17th before his only bogey on No. 18 to drop into the tie.

Tom Hoge looks on during the first round of Thursday's action.
Tom Hoge looks on during the first round of Thursday's action.Jared C. Tilton/Getty

Sloan had birdies on the 16th and 17th holes and had a chance at 9-under to take the lead alone, but came up short on a 15-foot birdie try on the final hole. The strong start was especially crucial for the 33-year-old Canadian, who came into the tour's last regular-season event at 178 in FedEx Cup points — well out of the 125 cut off to make next week's first postseason event, the Northern Trust in Boston.

Sloan is projected to rise into the top 50 should he maintain his position.

“Honestly, I don’t have to do anything,” he said. “I’m very blessed that I have status on the PGA Tour next season. That’s important. I’m going to get starts, I think that frees you up.”

All three leaders are seeking their first tour wins.

The trio were two shots in front of Harris English (64). A large group was at 5-under led by former Masters champion Patrick Reed.

Advertisement



Past U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson led another pack at 4-under 66.

Paul Casey, who tied for second last week at the PGA Championship, was at 67.

Some other PGA Championship contenders last week were not as fortunate.

Both Brooks Koepka and Justin Rose, each in the mix in the final round of the year's first major, could not keep that going in this one.

Brooks Koepka lines up a putt on the tenth green Thursday.
Brooks Koepka lines up a putt on the tenth green Thursday.Jared C. Tilton/Getty

Koepka was 10 shots behind after a 72. Justin Rose finished a stroke worse at 73.

Koepka said he was flat after playing several weeks in a row. “A bit tired, to be honest with you, so definitely came out flat,” he said. “But I’ve got to play, I’ve got no other option.”

Koepka said even moving up a spot or two in FedEx Cup standings is helpful to advance, so that's why he passed up a week off to compete.

He also said he apologized for his comments after Saturday’s third round last week that he didn’t know “a lot of the other guys” on the leaderboard.

“I get it, I get how it came across and I apologize for that,” Koepka said.

PGA Championship winner Collin Morikawa is off.

Varner had eight birdies, including four in a row midway through the round, without a birdie his first 15 holes. He finished with three pars.

Harold Varner III celebrates with his caddie on the 18th green after finishing the first round Thursday.
Harold Varner III celebrates with his caddie on the 18th green after finishing the first round Thursday.Chris Carlson/Associated Press

Varner, who went to high school in Gastonia about two hours away and college at East Carolina, was disappointed he couldn't play in front of friends and family due to the ongoing pandemic.

Advertisement



“It’s unfortunate this year because I enjoy the cheers and stuff,” he said. “But we’ll get through this year and figure it out. Yeah, it’s just good to be close to home.”

Hoge started crunching the numbers after he reached 9-under with two holes left. “I thought we could birdie the last two, but you’ve got to put it in the fairway,” he said after his tee shot on No. 18 went into the rough leading to bogey.

Champions — Steve Stricker birdied the final hole for a 2-under 68 and a share of the lead in the Bridgestone Senior Players Championship, the PGA Tour Champions’ first major of the season, in Akron, Ohio.

“Didn’t hit it all that good, though. I scraped it around, got it up-and-down a lot,” said Stricker, the US Ryder Cup captain, who had three birdies and a bogey. “But a good score certainly.”

Jerry Kelly, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Wes Short Jr. and Rod Pampling joined Stricker atop the leaderboard on Firestone Country Club's South Course, the longtime site of a PGA Tour event and later a World Golf Championship tournament.




Paul Broadhurst was the only other player to break par, shooting 69.



European — Alexander Levy became the first golfer to test positive for the coronavirus at a European Tour event and was one of two French players withdrawn on the opening day of the Celtic Classic in Newport, Wales.

Advertisement



Thomas Pieters shot a 7-under 64 in his first competitive round in five months to take the lead on the latest stop of the tour's six-week U.K. Swing, but the bigger talking point came off the course.

Thomas Pieters hits off the sixth tee on Thursday.
Thomas Pieters hits off the sixth tee on Thursday.David Davies/Associated Press

Levy came into contact last weekend with a friend in France who has since tested positive for the coronavirus, the tour said in a statement. When Levy arrived at Welsh tournament venue Celtic Manor Resort, he tested negative. He was told to self-isolate for 14 days and has since returned a positive result in a retest.

Hours later, officials said Romain Wattel had been identified as having had contact with Levy in Wales after the tour and local health authorities used track and trace. He was also retested and returned a negative result, as did Levy’s caddie.

LPGA — Danielle Kang started her bid for a third straight win on the LPGA Tour with an even-par 71 in the first round of the Ladies Scottish Open, leaving the American four shots off the clubhouse lead held by Nicole Broch Larsen.

The American golfer bounced back from bogeys on Nos. 3 and 4 by making birdie at the par-5 10th and then the last hole at an event that is being played without spectators and in an isolated environment at the Renaissance Club in North Berwick.


Broch Larsen made six birdies in total, including on the final two holes, for a 65 that put her a stroke clear of five players. One of those tied for second was Broch Larsen’s Danish compatriot, Emily Kristine Pedersen, along with Americans Amy Olson and Jennifer Song, Azahara Munoz of Spain and Olivia Cowan of Germany.

Advertisement



Of the 144 women in the field, 27 had yet to complete their round when play was suspended because of darkness.




US Amateur —Wellesley’s Michael Thorbjornsen birdied No. 16, a 373-yard par 4, to defeat Mateo Fernandez de Oliveira of Argentina, 3 and 2, and advance to the quarterfinals at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Bandon, Ore. Attleboro’s Davis Chatfield was eliminated in the Round of 16 by Matthew Sharpstene of Asheville, N.C., 4 and 3.

It was a good day for Wellesley's Michael Thorbjornsen.
It was a good day for Wellesley's Michael Thorbjornsen.Erin Clark for The Boston Globe

Women’s Mass. Amateur — Anne Walsh of The Country Club needed 20 holes to defeat Shannon Johnson of Thorny Lea GC to reach the semifinals at Essex Country Club.

Walsh will face Rebecca Skoler of Pine Brook CC, who defeated Krystal Knight of Bradford CC, 4 and 3. In the other semifinal, Mary Mulcahy of Hatherly CC, who defeated Tracy Martin of Vesper CC, 2 and 1, will face Allison Paik of Ledgemont CC, who defeated Mary Chamberlain of Cummaquid GC, 4 and 3.