A good mindset was imperative Thursday at the trouble-laden Liberty National, which was buffeted by inconsistent breezes. Varner countered with a hot putter. He gained approximately three strokes on the greens, and that doesn’t include the 22-footer he holed from the fringe on the fifth hole. That was a belated birthday gift for Varner, who celebrated his 31st birthday Sunday.
“That's a lot of … luck,” he said. “There was a clump of mud on one side of it. I was like, I'll just roll it down there, whatever, and ended up going in. Perfect pace.”
Varner finished T3 at Liberty National two years ago. At the time, it was the best finish of his PGA TOUR career (he bested that this season with his runner-up at the RBC Heritage).
His good result the last time he played in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty – he finished two back of winner Patrick Reed – had no impact on Varner’s play Thursday, however.
“That was in 2019. It's 2021. Do your job,” Varner said. “The biggest thing for me is … having a better attitude. That's what it comes down to, especially with the conditions like they are right now, windy.”
He shot 68 or lower in all four rounds here in 2019, which was good enough to skyrocket from 102nd to 29th in the FedExCup standings. He didn’t stay in the top 30, however, after finishing second-to-last in the next Playoffs event, the BMW Championship.
He still finished a career-best 38th in the FedExCup that season. It’s the only time in his five FedExCup campaigns that he has advanced to the BMW.
Varner arrived at Liberty National ranked 72nd in this season’s standings. His runner-up at the Heritage is his lone top-10 thus far this season but his eight top-25s are one off his career high.
After one round at THE NORTHERN TRUST, Varner has put himself in position for his biggest FedExCup payday. With a baby boy due in October, some of that would undoubtedly go towards diapers.