Harold Varner III, who will start Saturday’s third round of the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open three shots off the lead at TPC Summerlin, doesn’t believe in superstitious coins and other golf course voodoo.
On the other hand, his head cover has its own Twitter account.
Varner III calls it Gerald, named for a gift he received from college friends at East Carolina. Gerald sort of looks like a second cousin of one of the Cosby kids if you remember the old cartoon series. He sports an Afro, orange and yellow striped T-shirt, blue pants and green sneakers.
Gerald’s primary job is to keep Varner III grounded on the course. To make him smile, especially when things aren’t going well.
During last year’s PGA Championship, the 30-year-old journeyman was tied for second heading into the final round during which he was paired with eventual champion Brooks Koepka and shot 81.
Gerald must have made Varner III smile. The day after blowing up at Bethpage, he was back mowing the lawn at his parents’ house. How grounded is that?
Varner III still is chasing his first tour victory — he followed a first-round 63 with a 68 Friday in his first outing since recently getting married. But neither fact has precluded him and Gerald from making lots of friends, including some in high places.
Last year Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera appeared at a news conference wearing a Gerald Varner T-shirt. Varner III and Tiger Woods, who once stiffed him for an autograph when the former was 13, sometimes play practice rounds together during which Tiger sometimes imparts nuggets of wisdom, such as “playing golf on the PGA Tour is like reading a book with the TV on.”
Gerald Varner is sort of like Mister Ed, the talking horse from the old TV sitcom. He only speaks when he has something to say.
“He would say I should have played better, but hang in there,” Varner III said after completing his round as the sun was setting before adding that his sidekick has been enjoying Las Vegas as much as an inanimate object can during a pandemic.
“A lot of room service — he’s been hanging with the other head covers, not doing much.”
— Kelsey Riggs (@kelseyriggs) May 22, 2019
— Gerald Varner (@GV3_Golf) January 19, 2017
— Gerald Varner (@GV3_Golf) June 13, 2019
It’s gotta be the shoes
On the day he shot the best round of his career (62), first-round leader Bryson DeChambeau received a care package Thursday that contained a pair of Puma golf shoes hand painted by a Shriners Hospitals patient from Galveston, Texas.
Katharine Koonce, 16, suffered burns over 70 percent of her body while her family sought refuge from Hurricane Ike in 2008.
The special shoes included the Shriners’ logo on the heels and a mathematical equation by which the big-hitting DeChambeau abides painted on the sides — “deriving acceleration from velocity” the 2018 Shriners champ said as he opened the box with his teenage fan watching via the internet.
“Thank you so much, these look amazing,” DeChambeau said with a smile more honest than his length off the tee. “I’m gonna be wearing these all week.”
I watched the big man hit his drive on No. 10 Friday en route to a second-round 67. The ball practically exploded, like one of those novelty golf balls.
He was wearing the shoes.
Rickie loses that number
Gallery favorite (at least when there is a gallery) Rickie Fowler hit two balls in the lake on No. 16 and one on 17 (he also sank one on 17 Thursday) on his way to a 74. He failed to make the cut.
Other notables below the 7-under cut line were recent PGA champion Collin Morikawa, Hideki Matsuyama, Francesco Molinari, Jason Day and Maverick McNealy.
— Leftover from Thursday’s first round: Bruce Bielenberg, a volunteer on the 15th hole, witnessed three members of the same group making eagle. Hunter Mahan, Rafe Cabrera Bello and Bo Hoag each made a 2 on the short 314-yard par 4. “Three eagles by one group on one hole has to be pretty rare, right?” Bielenberg wrote in an email. It is. PGA officials said they could never recall it happening on a par 3.
— Former UNLV standout Charley Hoffman shot 71 Friday after a first-round 70 and failed to make the cut.
— Veteran Stewart Cink, who made five second-round birdies and two eagles and shot 63, on how he celebrated his recent win at the Safeway Open: “Went on an eight-day trip out west in a van with my in-laws ” which is sort of like going to Disney World, but also sort of not.