Harold Varner III, as seemingly honest as anyone who has made the PGA Tour-to-LIV Golf move, was again being forthright.
In late August, he had been, after it had been announced he was joining the Saudi-backed series. He was taking the money. On a note written on ‘HV3’ letterhead that he shared on his Instagram account, he explained the decision in this way: “The truth is, my life is changing. The opportunity to join LIV Golf is simply too good of a financial breakthrough for me to pass by. I know what it means to grow up without much. This money is going to ensure that my kid and future Varners will have a solid base to start on — and a life I could have only dreamt about growing up.”
A day later, in his LIV introductory press conference, Varner went further.
“So, like, golf’s never been a way for me to get my name on a trophy. It was a way for me to get out,” he said. “I played golf so I could go to college. I would not have been able to go to college without playing golf. And then I turned pro because my brain wasn’t smart enough to work nine-to-five and still make the same amount of money.
“The only thing that sucks about golf sometimes is most of the people that are in golf will never understand [that]. My kid will never understand it; I’m going to make sure of that.”
About one month and a few LIV events later, the subject had turned to world ranking points, or lack thereof on the now four-month-old tour. His new colleagues pleading for them, Varner saw it differently, though his thoughts were more of the same.
“I think the people at LIV have done an unbelievable job of just trying — because I don’t know the check marks. I could care less. I knew exactly what was going to happen. I knew what could happen in my career and I accept that,” Varner said.
“I’ve had a great time out here. So the world ranking thing, it’s just been a part of golf for so long, and now all of a sudden some feathers have been ruffled. So it’s just awkward. It’s funny, though, I think. But it is what it is.”
So yes, you know where he stands, and Varner has also seen some things. And that brings us to Friday and the first LIV team championship, where Varner had just beaten Brooks Koepka in match play, but his team had fallen, his year was now done and the reflective-type questions came.
“This ends your inaugural season with LIV. How would you sum up the experience?”
“I could sit here all day and answer that, but I would sum it up, it’s a lot of back and forth,” Varner said. “I try to stay out of the weeds. I’m having a lot of fun, and I’m going to have a great offseason. I’m going to do a lot of hunting, and I’m going to raise a lot of money for my foundation. That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. Nothing changes. I just have more time to do it.”
“Do you feel a sense of jealousy from anyone else in the golf world about the fact that you can take a month or two off?”
“I think the media is doing a great job of making that happen, but yeah, definitely there is,” Varner said. “I’m sure there is. Jealousy is human nature. You ain’t ever going to get away from it. You could put half the money out and people would be jealous. People love to be loved, love to be cared about.”
“Speaking of fun, is it a different kind of fun than you had at the Tour? Is it more fun?”
“I had fun at the Tour,” Varner said. “I don’t struggle with it whatsoever. I am a fun, outgoing person, so the situation isn’t what everyone else makes it out to be. My job is to enjoy what I do. I know I couldn’t work a 9 to 5 and make the same amount of money, and I love competition, so yeah, it’s just the same thing, just more money.”
Sincere. Though this exchange was maybe more so.
It was a warning.
While LIV is more veteran based, it also has its youth. At its sixth event, 22-year-old Eugenio Chacarra was your winner. On Varner’s team is 24-year-old James Piot, the 2021 U.S. Amateur champ. If LIV is going to really compete, it’s going to be on their shoulders, not the late 40-somethings.
And Varner was cautionary, and that’s notable. We’ll end things with this exchange.
“I talked with James yesterday and he mentioned how you look at him and his role and him being a really young kid out on this Tour; you called him lucky. You see him being in a very lucky position?”
“Him? I don’t think he’s in a lucky position; I think it’s called the right time, and I think we all were in at the right time,” Varner said. “So a little bit, yeah, I think we’re all lucky, but I think if he doesn’t make it on LIV, he’s going to have to go work his way up on the PGA Tour, and I think if you can tell him what’s ahead, he can be prepared the best he can. That’s his job.”
For really young kids like Eugenio and Turk and these guys, what can they actually benefit from out here?
“They’re going to be loaded before they go play. I’m firing at every pin; what you talking about?”
Varner then got serious.
“Yeah, it’s just different. I’m so happy for them. They embrace it. They just need to know that it’s not all sh**s and giggles. It’s going to be different if you’re not out here. It’s just the way it is. I always loved it. It molded me. It made me really a great player.
“But I just think there was a better opportunity for me at the time, and those guys just haven’t seen it. Simple as that. They’ve had great amateur careers and there’s a lot of guys that have had great amateur careers that haven’t paid off on the PGA Tour. So be prepared. You’re playing against great players. Learn the most you can so if it doesn’t work out out here, you’ll be prepared to be successful on the PGA Tour.”