WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, WV – JULY 7 : Kelly Kraft reacts after putting on the eighth hole during round three of A Military Tribute At The Greenbrier held at the Old White TPC course on July 7, 2018 in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
By Christopher Powers
After a slow start in the third round of A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier, Kelly Kraft finally got going as he made the turn at the Old White TPC, making three straight birdies at the 10th, 11th and 12th holes. Even with some intriguing names lurking a few shots behind, it appeared like it might be becoming Kraft’s week.
But a late-round stumble that saw Kraft make bogeys at 16 and 18 has opened the tournament back up to some other players looking for similar breakthroughs. First, there is Harold Varner III, who carded a four-under 66 that included a back-nine 32, putting him at 14-under 196, which he later found out was good enough to be tied for the lead through 54 holes.
“Super pleased,” said Varner, whose first birdie did not come until the par-4 11th. “I hung in there on the front nine, a lot of pars, and just got it going on the back, and now I’ve got an opportunity to win a golf tournament.”
It’s an opportunity the happy-go-lucky 27-year-old hasn’t had many of in his still nascent PGA Tour career, especially this season, which has featured just one top 10. That’s why he’s cherishing every moment, and that always upbeat attitude could be what propels him to his first career win on tour.
“I like having fun,” he said. “This is what we play for, enjoy it, and look forward to this. Unless you’re Tiger, you don’t get many looks at this. You’re not going to do any good being negative. I’m going to live for this moment. You’ve got to be positive. You have to be really good at golf to be negative and still perform.”
Varner will play in the final group with Kraft, who still finished with a one-under 69 despite limping into the clubhouse.
Two players just one back at 13-under 197, including defending champion Xander Schauffele, who made an eagle at the par-5 17th and finished with a five-under 65. He’s tied with Kevin Na, who also carded a five-under 65 and has put himself in position to win for just the second time in his career.
“Every time I get in contention, I’m hungry to win,” said Na, whose only win came at the Shriners in 2011. “When I won, it took me eight years, and I told everybody that it will not take that long to win my second one, and I’m running out of time. Hopefully I get this done.”
Sam Saunders, another player looking for his first win, is two back at 12-under 198. Bubba Watson, Joel Dahmen and Anirban Lahiri are tied for sixth at 11-under 199.