Harold Varner III did what he expected to do in his debut at the Masters Tournament.
“I didn't expect to win, but I expected to contend,” said Varner, who wrapped up his first week at Augusta National with a tie for 23rd, his best finish at a major.
“We were really close. That kind of pisses me off a little bit, but, yeah, I expect to do that every week now that I'm playing well.”
All smiles as he made the walk from the 18th green to the clubhouse Sunday afternoon, the 31-year-old Gastonia native shook hands with an Augusta National member before completing his final interview at the 86th Masters.
“I had a great time. It makes it a lot better playing the way I did (Sunday),” said Varner, who carded a 3-under-par 69 to finish at 3-over par for the tournament.
“Just have to learn from (Saturday) and just keep doing what I'm doing. Obviously, it's working.”
After starting his Masters debut with back-to-back rounds in red figures, Varner put himself in contention.
Brutal conditions Saturday and inconsistency off the tee contributed to an 8-over-par 80, but the East Carolina alum donned his Pirate purple on Sunday and responded with his best round of the week.
“You do what competitors do: You respond,” he said. “I think if you do that in life, you'll go a long way.”
In his ninth major appearance, Varner posted his second top-30 finish in a major. His previous best was a tie for 29th at the 2020 PGA Championship.
“It makes me want to win this thing. That stuff will take care of itself. Yeah, I just want to win, and winning gets you here,” he said.
“Just focusing on that, and obviously, if I keep getting better, I'm going to keep getting closer.”
Varner, who came into the week at 40th in the Official World Golf Ranking, joined the PGA Tour in 2016. With two international victories, including the Saudi Invitational in February, it feels like Varner’s first Tour win will come sooner rather than later.
“Just got to keep learning, keep getting better,” he said. “Yeah, this is a good start.”
Despite finishing two strokes shy of a top-12 finish, which would have earned him an invite to the 2023 Masters, he’s already thinking about next April.
“The cool part about today is I think the pins will be in similar spots next year when I'm here,” Varner said.
“I'll know kind of what to do, get a good feel for what I need to do to score.”
Staff writer Rodd Baxley can be reached at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on The Gaston Gazette: Harold Varner III posts best major finish at 2022 Masters Tournament