Harold Varner III goes from worst to first in a week. He shares LIV Golf Vegas lead with Paul Casey

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Harold Varner III made an impressive turnaround in one week, going from last place in the LIV Golf season opener to a 7-under 63 on Thursday to share the first-round lead with Paul Casey.

LIV Golf Las Vegas is being held the same week as the Super Bowl and drew a reasonable turnout at Las Vegas Country Club, despite temperatures that barely cracked 50 degrees when the shotgun start began.

Varner opened with two straight birdies and closed with two birdies on his last three holes. He began the season last week at the Mexican resort of Mayakoba and finished last in the 54-man field, 26 shots out of the lead.

Varner said he got in some work with Butch Harmon, the esteemed swing coach who lives in Las Vegas and doesn’t travel much. Key to his round was not having to take penalty drops when he hit a few wayward tee shots.

Asked what he thought would be a winning score, Varner said jokingly, “The biggest thing for me was not finishing last.”

“I was kind of (ticked) off because first of all, it’s embarrassing, and second of all, I think I’m better than that, so prove it,” Varner said. “That’s good for me. It’s a good spot to be.”

Casey started on the par-3 eighth “party hole,” which had loud music but not much of a crowd that early in the proceedings. He had an early bogey before ripping off six birdies in an eight-hole stretch.

“I know it was cold this morning, but it was a perfect day for golf,” Casey said. “Once I warmed up a bit, I got firing.”

They had a two-shot lead over a group that included Bubba Watson and Matthew Wolff. Only eight players were over par on a course that hasn’t hosted a professional event since the LPGA Takefugi Classic in 2006.

Joaquin Niemann, who opened with a 59 at Mayakoba and ultimately won in a playoff over Sergio Garcia, had to settle for a 68.

___

AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf

Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.