Varner is on the best streak of his pro career entering the Wyndham Championship that begins on Thursday

GASTONIA - A year ago this time, Gastonia's Harold Varner III entered the Wyndham Championship under pressure to keep his PGA tour card.

This year, Varner already knows he's qualified for next year's tour due to the hottest streak of his three-year PGA career.

But Varner, a 2008 Forestview High graduate who turns 28 on Wednesday, doesn't want this to be his "career year."

He still seeks a first PGA tour victory and based on his recent play, that well could happen as soon as this weekend in a tournament that's the second-closest to his hometown.

“It makes me feel good because I know I can play well here," Varner said. "The first year I got here (in 2016) I knew I would miss the cut and I did, and then last year I got here and I knew I had to finish in the top 13 and I finished in the top 13.

“This year, I want to win.”

Varner's season has been a rollercoaster that started slowly due to a sore hip injury that led to his missing nine cuts out of 25 events. But Varner has only missed two cuts since May.

"Getting healthy was the biggest thing for me," Varner said. "My hip would hurt early in the morning. I knew something wasn't right and I would swing around it. Now I love waking up and feeling good."

Varner also got some advice from two of his longtime idols - Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan.

Nicknamed "Little Tiger" by his Cramerton Middle School coach A.J. Simmons, Varner had always been a fan of Woods. And while they had talked some since Varner had turned pro in 2013, they'd never played together until the second week of May of this year.

"I saw him at the Wells Fargo and we'd always talked smack to each other but never had exchanged numbers," Varner said of talking to Woods during the May 3 through 6 golf tournament in Charlotte. "So I went over to his locker and I said, 'Dude are you going to get me play with you or what? This is horse crap. We keep saying that we're going to play.'

"So he said, 'Alright, I'll text when I'm flying in' (to the May 10-13 Tournament Players Championship). I'm like I'll believe it when I see it. So he texted me and said 'I'm playing at this time and be there' and we got to play."

Varner also talked to Jordan - or the inspiration for Nike's Jordan Brand gear that Varner became the first and only PGA golfer to wear on this year's tour beginning in January.

"When I was struggling, I texted MJ," Varner said. "The craziest part of it all is I asked both of them (Jordan and Woods) about what they do when they’re struggling. Both of them said, ‘You need to relax, you’re putting too much pressure on yourself.' Those were the exact words both of them said.

"So when the two greatest athletes I’d ever seen do their sport both said the same thing. It’s really good to be able to lean on people like that."

Varner enters this week's tournament coming off top 17 finishes in each of his previous three tournaments. He also was the leader after three rounds of A Military Tribute at Greenbrier last month before finishing with a career-best tie for fifth place.

“I haven’t won, which is a bummer," Varner said. "But it makes me work a little bit harder.

"It’s going to happen. I don’t care where it is."

 

Richard Walker: 704-869-1843; twitter.com/jrwalk22