HAROLD VARNER III WILL TAKE A ONE STROKE LEAD INTO THE FINAL ROUND OF THE 2022 SAUDI INTERNATIONAL AFTER ANOTHER WINDY DAY AT ROYAL GREENS NEXT TO THE RED SEA. THE AMERICAN, WHOSE ONLY WORLDWIDE CAREER TITLE CAME AT THE 2016 AUSTRALIAN PGA CHAMPIONSHIP, PLAYED SOLIDLY ON A DAY WHEN HE COULD HAVE BEEN BLOWN OUT OF CONTENTION LIKE SO MANY OTHERS.
VARNER, 31 FROM OHIO, MADE A SLOW START WITH PARS AT THE FIRST AND SECOND BEFORE A BOGEY AT THE PAR THREE THIRD HOLE, BUT HE BOUNCED BACK IMMEDIATELY AT THE FOURTH BY ROLLING IN A STUNNING EAGLE PUTT ON THE PAR FIVE. HE BACKED THAT UP WITH A BIRDIE AT THE FIFTH AND MADE PARS AT SIX, SEVEN, EIGHT AND NINE TO HEAD TO THE BACK NINE AT -12, BEFORE A BIRDIE AT THE 10TH GAVE HIM AT THAT STAGE A COMMANDING 3 STROKE LEAD AT -13. A BIRDIE AT THE 18TH COUNTERED BOGEYS AT THE 11TH AND 14TH TO GIVE HIM A BACK NINE OF 35 AND HE WILL HAVE A CHANCE TO ADD TO HIS ONLY PREVIOUS WIN TOMORROW.
“Just hanging in there,” said Varner.
“Really good pins today on 11, 12. So I just did a good job of just slowing down and just doing my job. I love competing. I mean, it’s the greatest thing in life is competing and just working at it.”SPAIN'S ADRI ARNAUS WILL BEGIN THE FINAL ROUND 1 STROKE BACK OF VARNER AFTER 3 BIRDIES ON THE BACK NINE SAW HIM POST A THIRD ROUND OF 69. ARNAUS LAST WON AT THE 2018 RAS AL KHAIMAH CHALLENGE TOUR GRAND FINAL, WHICH COINCIDENTALLY IS WHERE THE DP WORLD TOUR ARE PLAYING THIS WEEK AND NEXT WEEK. “I just think that day by day we get the hang of how the course is playing, the same wind as yesterday, as far as velocity and direction. So, we’re already knowing what to do here and there. It’s just sticking to the game plan and really give yourself the best look as you can and be in the right position" SAID ARNAUS.
“You know, when it comes to the putts, it’s not that easy to get the line right, as you can imagine.”
ENGLAND'S TOMMY FLEETWOOD HASN'T WON SINCE THE 2019 NEDBANK GOLF CHALLENGE, BUT HE HAS PUT HIMSELF IN CONTENTION WITH A THIRD ROUND OF 67, MATCHING HIS SCORE ON FRIDAY. THE MAN FROM SOUTHPORT DEMONSTRATED PATIENCE AND SKILL TO NAVIGATE THE ROYAL GREENS COURSE IN THE BREEZE, MAKING 5 BIRDIES TO MOVE 2 OFF THE LEAD AND EARNING A PLACE IN THE FINAL GROUP ON SUNDAY.
“Yeah, very happy to be done and in. I got off to a bad start. I actually hit a perfect drive on one and was in like this massive rough and made a bogey from nowhere. On days when you know it’s going to be really hard, you don’t really want to be giving too many shots away, especially the start,” said Fleetwood.
“But after that, played really, really well. Scored well. Made more birdies than I thought I would do today probably. Just hit a lot of really good iron shots and gave myself chances.
“It was hard all day. It was like yards to play and scrapping. Yeah, very happy to be done for the day.”BUT THE NAME OF DUSTIN JOHNSON LOOMS LARGE AND THE 2-TIME CHAMPION, WHO IN 3 ATTEMPTS HAS NEVER FINISHED LOWER THAN SECOND PLACE IN THIS TOURNAMENT, WILL BEGIN THE FINAL ROUND 5 OFF THE LEAD AFTER A SATURDAY 67 FEATURED JUST 1 BOGEY AND A BACK NINE OF 33.
WITH IT SET TO BE ANOTHER WINDY DAY ON SUNDAY WE COULD SEE FIREWORKS AS THE TITLE MOVES INTO SIGHT FOR THE LEADERS, AND WITH THE STACKED CHASING PACK ALL BIDDING FOR THE TITLE AND ADD THEIR NAME TO THE ALREADY STELLAR ROLL OF HONOUR AT THE SAUDI INTERNATIONAL.
SHANK WILL HAVE ENHANCED COVERAGE OF THE FINAL ROUND WITH UPDATES THROUGHOUT THE FINAL DAY ON OUR TWITTER PAGE AND A POST-ROUND REPORT AND REACTION HERE ON SHANKMEDIA.CO.UK/GOLF, THIS WILL BE FOLLOWED ON SUNDAY EVENING BY OUR MAJOR FEATURE - GIVING THE GAME A SHEIKH UP - THE BATTLE FOR THE FUTURE OF GOLF.