Varner goes low in Panama

Panama City, Panama ( – Harold Varner III fired a 6-under 64
in Friday’s second round and he jumped into the lead after 36 holes of the
season-opening Panama Claro Championship.

Varner, who is starting his second full season on the Tour, finished
two rounds at 9-under 131. He missed the tournament’s 36-hole scoring record
by one stroke.

Mathew Goggin is one stroke back at minus-8 after a second-round, 5-under 65
at Club de Golf de Panama. Zack Fischer (66) and Henrik Norlander (67) share
third place at 5-under-par 135.

Aaron Watkins (68) is tied for fifth at 4-under 136 with Hao Tong Li (69).
Curtis Thompson (69), Oliver Goss (69), Chase Wright (67) and Andrew Landry
(69) are one stroke further back at minus-3.

First-round leader Scott Parel stumbled to a 4-over 74 and slid to 1-under-par
139, which dropped him into a share of 14th place.

Varner, who was in the second group out off the 10th tee, opened with a pair
of pars. He got on the board with birdies at the 12th and 14th. However, he
tripped to a bogey No. 15 to dip back to minus-4.

He ran off five straight pars from the 16th. Back-to-back birdies at three and
four moved him to 6-under.

Varner wasn’t finished there. He parred five and six and was suddenly tied for
the lead after Goggin bogeyed the 15th. As Goggin bounced back with a pair of
birdies, Varner matched them as he birdied the seventh and eighth. Varner made
it three in a row as he also birdied the ninth to end one clear of the field.

“It was calm until we got to our back nine. Yesterday, I was hitting from the
rough and it’s just hard to play from the rough out here,” Varner said. “The
greens are so firm and judging the fliers makes it difficult to get to the
pins. Playing from the fairways today was huge.”

Goggin, who was in the first group out off the first tee, got going with a
birdie on the third and followed with an eagle on the par-5 fourth. He gave
those two strokes back as he tripped to bogeys at five and six.

The four-time Tour winner recovered one stroke as he birdied the
seventh to move to minus-5. Around the turn, Goggin birdie the 11th.

Goggin traded a birdie at the 14th for a bogey at the 15th. He shared the lead
with Varner at that point. Goggin converted back-to-back birdie efforts at 16
and 17, but parred the last to end one back.

“Maybe some of the young guys come out with that ‘all attack’ attitude and
that just doesn’t work well around here. You’ve got to control the ball flight
and it gets windy and tricky,” Goggin stated. “There are a lot of times you’re
playing away from the hole. You’ve got to shape the ball and hope you make a
few 15-footers, but you don’t have to go all out.”

NOTES: Varner shared second place last year at the Rex Hospital Open for his
best career tour finish … Chase Wright (67) had the lone bogey-free round on
Friday … The cut line fell at 3-over-par 143 with 73 players advancing to
the weekend … Among those that missed the cut were Steve Marino, Carlos
Franco, Luke List, Tommy Gainey and D.J. Trahan.