Defending Australian PGA champion Harold Varner III is hoping that the return of Tiger Woods to golf exceeds all expectations so that he one day has the chance to take him down.
Varner’s return to RACV Royal Pines on the Gold Coast this week will be overshadowed by Woods’ appearance at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas with fellow players expressing excitement around the promise of even a glimpse of the Tiger of old.
Varner and Woods were actually paired together at Torrey Pines in January this year but with personal issues off the course affecting his performance on the course, the Akron native desperately wants the opportunity to atone for his rounds of 78-73, three shots worse than Woods as both missed the cut.
“I think he’s going to play well. I heard he’s hitting it far,” Varner told media on Tuesday.
“I mean, it’s Tiger Woods, you can never say, ‘I think he’s going to play like crap,’ just because it’s Tiger. I think he’s going to play really well. I’ve only played one tournament with him and that was Torrey Pines this year, but I couldn’t crack an egg so it didn’t matter.
“I just wanted to play well so I have a chance to beat him so I can say, ‘Oh, I went toe-to-toe with Tiger’. I think that would be the coolest thing in the world. That’s what I grew up thinking about. Even though he was the best, I was like, man, dude, I went neck and neck with Tiger and hopefully I beat him because I would never forget that.”
Varner spent Tuesday reacquainting himself with a course he has performed well at the past two years alongside one of three former Masters champions in the field, Canadian Mike Weir. With Tiger’s return such a hot topic, the pair couldn’t help but discuss what the latest comeback would mean for golf and the scrutiny that will inevitably come with it.
“I feel like every shot’s just magnified,” said Varner. “Where if I hit a bad shot they’d be like, ‘Oh, you hit a bad shot. Who cares?’ But when I hit a good one, you’re going to be like, ‘Dude, do you remember that shot?’
“But with Tiger it’s going to be, ‘Do you remember how bad he hit that? Can you believe Tiger hit that?’ That’s just unfortunate for him. I was actually talking to Mike about that, how like every shot’s like – it’s not life or death but it’s going to replay on TV all day. Like if I hit a bad shot, it’s never going to be on SportsCenter top-10 or not top-10. If Tiger hits a bad shot, it’s probably going to make SportsCenter’s top-10, you know?
“For him, the media can be a little too harsh. It’s surprising I haven’t heard anyone say that. He’s had the media around him a long time, but think about how the media’s changed his life. If some people go through a divorce and cheat or whatever they did, it’s always under the rug. His got played out in front of the whole world. I wouldn’t wish that upon anyone. If I had a divorce, I’d be like, ‘All right, back off.’
“But I would like to see him play well. I would like to see him play a whole season and play very well.”