Harold Varner III takes two-shot lead after first round at LIV DC in Washington; PGA champion Brooks Koepka level par after shooting opening 72; defending Open champion Cameron Smith tied for third on four under; Varner seeking first LIV win and first win since February 2022
Last Updated: 27/05/23 12:19am
Harold Varner III made two eagles en route to an eight-under 64 at Trump National Golf Club in Washington, DC, to take the first-round lead in the latest LIV Golf event.
Varner is two clear of James Piot (six-under 66), with a group tied for third at four-under 68 featuring Cameron Smith of Australia, Mito Pereira of Chile, Kevin Na and Andy Ogletree.
Varner opened his round with a bogey at the par-three fourth hole but shrugged it off quickly. After a birdie brought him back to even, he made an eagle-two at the 317-yard, par-four ninth hole.
His second eagle came four holes later at the par-five 13th hole. He followed that with two birdies for a four-under run in three holes. He picked up birdies at the final two par-fives (Nos 18 and 3) to set the pace.
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Varner, 32, is seeking his first win on the Saudi-funded LIV circuit. He has had a fine career thus far and tied for 29th at both The Masters and the PGA Championship this season, but his last win came in February 2022 at the Saudi International on the Asian Tour.
Piot and Ogletree are former US Amateur winners among the younger pros hoping to make a mark in the PGA Tour’s upstart rival league. Piot had seven birdies and one bogey on Friday, while Ogletree had five birdies and one bogey.
Dustin Johnson and Patrick Reed were among the names tied at three-under 69, while Bryson DeChambeau and Spain’s Sergio Garcia, among others, shot two-under 70.
Brooks Koepka, coming off his fifth career major title on Sunday at the PGA Championship, opened with an even-par 72.
Phil Mickelson is in 44th place after an opening two-over 74.
Varner’s RangeGoats GC are tied with Iron Heads GC for the lead in the team competition at 10 under. Varner, Talor Gooch (70) and Belgium’s Thomas Pieters (72) had their scores count for RangeGoats, while Iron Heads were fuelled by captain Na, Scott Vincent of Zimbabwe (69) and Danny Lee of New Zealand (69).