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GOLD COAST, Australia – Harold Varner III set his alarm for 2:45 a.m. For a more seasoned pro such as Ian Poulter, it was a relatively more leisurely wakeup call for 3:30.
There was a serious recalibration on Friday at the Australian PGA Championship, the morning after lightning and rain prevented any play late on the first day. Varner and Poulter were among the players who didn't finish their first rounds before the postponement, and had to be back at Royal Pines Resort to tee off at 5:30 a.m. on Friday
"I can't just get up and feel good. I've got to stretch," said Varner, who was runner-up here last year after losing a three-way playoff. "I don't like to just get up and go. I like to chill."
Varner had a share of second spot at 5 under after 14 holes when his first round was interrupted on Thursday. He finished off with a couple of birdies for an opening 65, and a share of the lead at 7 under. His second round followed quickly, and he had a birdie on the 12th — the third hole of his second round — to move to 8 under.
Double bogeys on the 15th and 16th were setbacks. He had a birdie at the 18th, then a bogey at the 2nd, before finishing with three birdies in his last five holes to card an even second round and remain at 7 under, good enough to keep him up near the top of the leaderboard.
"The 15th, 16th ... happened real fast," he said. "It was just a bad combination. I hit some bad shots and I compounded those with my attitude.
"Then I also used that attitude to get out of there. I made enough birdies ... it was nice to rebound, finish really strong."
Varner had planned to watch a round of Tiger Woods' comeback at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas on TV, so there was one benefit to leaving his hotel at 3:45 a.m.
"When I got here he was leading. Then when I finished my first round, he was 1 under and he had one hole left," Varner said. "It's exciting to see him back. It's crazy — 18-man field, people are so in-tuned to. It just goes to show how much he moves the needle and how much we still need him."
At least the 26-year-old Varner had some recent experience of the early bird starts, recalling the times before he emerged on the PGA Tour when he had to get up around 3 a.m. to drive for a Monday qualifier.
He was planning a sleep and maybe a trip to the casino Friday afternoon.
Poulter had plans for a long afternoon snooze after finishing off his first round, an even-par 72, and then carding a 68 to move to 4 under — all before lunch.
The 40-year-old Englishman, who was sidelined for four months because of an arthritic joint in his right foot before returning to competition in October, said he went to bed before 7 p.m. in order to wake up at 3:30.
"That was a little strange morning call, I think 3.30 alarm to come out and play golf is a touch on the early side," he said. "I don't ever remember an alarm going off at anything in the threes for any tee off time in the last 17 years.
"I didn't manage to get any jetlag at all flying from America, but a tee time's managed to give me jetlag!"
Poulter said he's happy with his form over the last five tournaments after changing back to an old putter.
"A little frustrated not to finish the round off strong once I made five birdies on my outward 9 this morning, so it could have been a few better, but I'm in position."