American Harold Varner III holed a miraculous eagle putt from 92 feet on the par-five 18th at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club to win the US$5 million PIF Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers today and beat compatriot Bubba Watson by a shot.
In one of the most remarkable finishes seen in tournament golf, Varner prevailed after Watson, playing three groups ahead, had also made three on the last from 15 feet to appear on course to win.
Varner, leader at the start of that, closed with a one-under-par 69 and finish on 13 under to claim by far the biggest victory of his career, worth a US$1 million cheque.
Twelve-time PGA Tour winner Watson fired a stunning 64, in what is the season-opening event on the Asian Tour, while Spaniard Adri Arnaus shot 71 to take to sole possession of third, three behind the winner.
Asian Tour winner Steve Lewton, who was paired with Watson, enjoyed one of the finest tournaments of his career after closing with a 67 to tie for fourth, a stroke further back.
“Awesome. Still – it’s been pretty crazy since it happened,” said Varner, who has won once before, in the 2016 Australian PGA Championship, the year he started playing regularly on the PGA Tour.
“I’m just trying to take it in. Winning just never gets old. I just know that there’s been times where it just didn’t go my way and today it did. I’m super thrilled not just for myself, but everyone that’s either on my team or in my corner.
“They know who they are so I don’t have to thank them. They know who they are. My mom’s already called. Yeah, I’m pumped.”
The 31 year old’s chance of winning appeared to have gone after he made double bogey on 14 before he dropped another shot on 16 but a birdie on the penultimate proved to be the precursor to his grandstand finish.
Watson, after watching Varner hole out on the last, ran down to the green to congratulate his friend.
He said: “It’s a dear friend of mine. It’s a guy I truly love. It’s a guy that I want to help. He’s new — when I say new, we know Harold, but it took me — it was five years until I won my first. So, this is a guy that’s just starting to play better and better each year. We see his name a little bit more. He’s getting comfortable.”
“I’m not mad at him for beating me. I’m happy for him. He’s a dear friend of mine, and I applaud him. I love seeing that. I cheer for him,” added the two-time US Masters champion.
England’s Lewton was thrilled with his finish in the star-studded event.
“It just re-affirms how well I am playing,” said Lewton.
“I hit my irons really well this week. It is my first time playing here and it’s been an incredible experience. I can take a lot of confidence from this ahead of the Asian Tour’s next two events in Thailand.”
The Englishman has been in fine form on the Asian Tour recently with top-10 finishes in The Singapore International and Laguna Phuket Championship.
Defending champion Dustin Johnson from the United States returned a 70 to end seven under and tie for eighth.
The Saudi International boasted the strongest field in the history of the Asian Tour and one of its most lucrative purses.
The Asian Tour’s next event is the Royal’s Cup at Grand Prix Golf Club from March 3-6.
Scores after round 4 of the Saudi International being played at the par 70, 7048 Yards Royal Green GCC course (am – denotes amateur):
267 – Harold Varner III (USA) 64-66-68-69.
268 – Bubba Watson (USA) 64-70-70-64.
270 – Adri Arnaus (ESP) 64-66-69-71.
271 – Steve Lewton (ENG) 68-67-69-67, Cameron Smith (AUS) 66-66-70-69.
272 – Matthew Wolff (USA) 65-67-73-67, Pablo Larrazabal (ESP) 68-68-68-68.
273 – Abraham Ancer (MEX) 68-70-69-66, Jhonattan Vegas (VEN) 68-74-65-66, Joaquin Niemann (CHI) 65-72-68-68, Ryosuke Kinoshita (JPN) 64-70-69-70, Dustin Johnson (USA) 65-71-67-70, Tommy Fleetwood (ENG) 66-67-67-73.
274 – Shane Lowry (IRL) 68-70-70-66, Takumi Kanaya (JPN) 67-70-70-67, Brad Kennedy (AUS) 67-72-67-68.
275 – Henrik Stenson (SWE) 66-72-70-67.
276 – Phil Mickelson (USA) 67-69-71-69, Xander Schauffele (USA) 67-68-69-72, Wade Ormsby (AUS) 68-67-68-73.
277 – Berry Henson (USA) 67-73-71-66, Lee Westwood (ENG) 71-69-71-66, Lucas Herbert (AUS) 66-73-71-67.
278 – Sergio Garcia (ESP) 70-70-71-67, Thomas Pieters (BEL) 73-67-71-67, Justin Harding (RSA) 71-73-66-68, Paul Casey (ENG) 68-74-64-72.
279 – Marc Leishman (AUS) 74-69-72-64, Thongchai Jaidee (THA) 69-72-71-67, Sebastian Crampton (USA) 73-70-69-67, Tyrrell Hatton (ENG) 67-69-75-68, Tony Finau (USA) 68-72-70-69, Rikuya Hoshino (JPN) 70-71-69-69, Matteo Manassero (ITA) 62-73-74-70, Bio Kim (KOR) 66-72-71-70, Kevin Na (USA) 70-68-70-71, Phachara Khongwatmai (THA) 65-76-66-72.
280 – Jazz Janewattananond (THA) 68-76-71-65, Laurie Canter (ENG) 68-72-72-68, Jaco Ahlers (RSA) 70-70-70-70, Jarin Todd (USA) 67-76-67-70, Patrick Reed (USA) 66-69-73-72, Gavin Green (MAS) 70-72-66-72, Jovan Rebula (RSA) 68-70-69-73.
281 – Joohyung Kim (KOR) 65-73-76-67, Andrew Dodt (AUS) 69-71-74-67, Jason Kokrak (USA) 66-73-73-69, Todd Baek (USA) 67-74-71-69, J.C. Ritchie (RSA) 68-66-77-70, Rattanon Wannasrichan (THA) 66-75-68-72.
282 – Shubhankar Sharma (IND) 67-71-75-69, Paul Peterson (USA) 70-68-71-73.
283 – Victor Perez (FRA) 73-71-69-70, Ian Poulter (ENG) 68-72-68-75.
284 – Viraj Madappa (IND) 71-72-74-67, Rashid Khan (IND) 66-75-75-68, Daniel Hillier (NZL) 71-72-72-69, Louis Dobbelaar (AUS) 69-72-73-70.
285 – Sadom Kaewkanjana (THA) 68-76-73-68, Sihwan Kim (USA) 71-73-72-69, Rafa Cabrera Bello (ESP) 70-69-75-71, Richard T. Lee (CAN) 66-75-71-73, Panuphol Pittayarat (THA) 71-71-70-73.
286 – Bjorn Hellgren (SWE) 68-74-75-69, Yoseop Seo (KOR) 71-73-73-69, Miguel Carballo (ARG) 73-71-72-70, Hongtaek Kim (KOR) 70-73-72-71.
288 – Poom Saksansin (THA) 69-73-76-70, Eduard Rousaud (ESP) 69-73-75-71, Shiv Kapur (IND) 65-72-77-74.
290 – Ratchanon Chantananuwat (am, THA) 69-71-74-76.
292 – Yikeun Chang (KOR) 71-73-75-73.
294 – Ryo Hisatsune (JPN) 68-76-75-75.
295 – Suradit Yongcharoenchai (THA) 73-71-77-74.