In contention at 2022 Masters, Harold Varner III might have new Jordan rule to follow

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Harold Varner III might owe Michael Jordan a few more strokes the next time they play golf together.

“He said, since I haven’t won, I’ve got to give him eight shots,” said Varner, a Jordan Brand athlete. “When I win, I have to give him 10.”

In contention in his debut at the Masters Tournament, the Gastonia native sits inside the top 10 entering the third round, in the hunt for the green jacket.

Varner got the chance to visit Butler Cabin on Friday afternoon for a post-round interview with ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt.

Harold Varner III smiles at his caddie, Chris Rice, on the No. 7 green during the second round of the Masters on Friday. Andrew Davis Tucker-Augusta Chronicle/USA TODAY Sports
Harold Varner III smiles at his caddie, Chris Rice, on the No. 7 green during the second round of the Masters on Friday. Andrew Davis Tucker-Augusta Chronicle/USA TODAY Sports

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“There’s a reason I’m in here,” Varner told Van Pelt. “We came down here to compete. You can’t treat it like any other tournament; it’s a major. But I’ve gotten better at just understanding that I can play with anyone, and we’re doing that every time.”

For the second consecutive day, Varner posted a 1-under-par 71 at Augusta National Golf Club. And, for the second consecutive day, he provided patrons with some excitement on the second nine.

Rocking a green Nike pullover and a white hat featuring a Carolina blue Jumpman logo, the 31-year-old East Carolina alum got the chance to see some of his highlights from Friday’s round.

“This was sick,” Varner said as he watched the replay of his chip-in from behind the green on the par-4 10th hole.

“This right here was awesome,” he added as he took a look at his near ace on the par-3 16th.

After that interview, Varner made his way to a group of reporters in front of the clubhouse.

As media members peppered him with questions about his background, Jordan and Tiger Woods, Varner was as candid as ever as he discussed the possibility of donning a green jacket.

“Yeah, I think about it all the time … yeah, hell yeah, that’s what I want,” he said.

“That’s what I’m here to do. … It’s gotten easier though with a family, because you don’t have time to think about it. You just hold (my son), and you’re like, he doesn’t give a (expletive) if I have a green jacket or a gold jacket.”

It was as if he had just completed another round at the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro instead of the 86th Masters.

As he continues to chase his first victory on the PGA Tour, Varner has become increasingly better at keeping things in perspective on the course. Advice from Woods, a five-time Masters champion, helped him in that area.

“I’ve never doubted that I could win. … I never forget, Tiger told me the greatest thing,” Varner said.

“I asked him, ‘What does it take to win?’ He said, ‘Quit worrying about winning.’ It’s helped my demeanor. Just do what I’m good at: play golf, hit the shot that it calls for. I think you have to do that a lot out here.”

A day after earning some crystal in the first round with what he described as an “awesome” shot that led to an eagle on the par-5 13th, Varner remained in contention with four birdies and three bogeys on a blustery day at Augusta.

“It’s been great. A great experience, but the best experience is playing well,” he said. “At the end of the day, that’s what I wanna do. … I just want to keep doing what I’m doing. It’s only going to get tougher and everyone’s only going to keep talking about it. I just want to have a chance to win.”

And if Varner returns to Butler Cabin on Sunday, he’ll have a new Jordan rule to follow.

“Yeah, we’ll see,” he said with a smile.

Staff writer Rodd Baxley can be reached at rbaxley@fayobserver.com.

This article originally appeared on The Gaston Gazette: Michael Jordan rules? Harold Varner III still in hunt at 2022 Masters