Harold Varner III knocked in a 92-foot eagle putt on the 72nd hole to win the Saudi International in February and his instant crazy celebration became an instant classic.

But when he returned to the United States, something weird started to happen. He started seeing it on social media, sensing it elsewhere. Suddenly, Varner was going to go and play in the Super Golf League, the proposed circuit that would rival the PGA Tour and be funded the repressive regime of Saudi Arabia.

After all, Varner received a hefty appearance fee to play in the Saudi International, then took home a haul of cash for winning. That’s what some believed. Criticism was directed his way.

But Varner said all he did was win a tournament.

“When is winning a bad thing,” Varner said Thursday after his first round in the Players Championship. “My name went right to the top of the list.

“If I wouldn’t have won, no one would have talked about it.”

Varner was shaken a bit and said he felt “terrible” as the jet lag got to him and he missed the cut in the WM Phoenix Open. Things didn’t improve much as he also missed the cut the following week in the Genesis Invitational.

After a two-week break, Varner returned to this week’s Players Championship. On Wednesday, he sought out PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, who has made it clear that any player joining the league would face banishment from the PGA Tour. Varner said he would not reveal what was said between the two.

“I do have to commend Jay for sitting down and talking to me and being totally open about,” Varner said. “I look at Jay as a friend, but it’s pretty odd how my name just went straight to the top of the list.

“You do your job, that’s what you do, and I thought that was pretty odd. I’ve always supported the PGA Tour when they needed me, and I want to be there.”

Varner, still seeking his first PGA Tour title, was doing his job quite well through the storm-delayed first round on Thursday.

Play started an hour later than scheduled on the soggy Stadium Course and then was suspended at 11 a.m. for 4 hours, 14 minutes. Before and after the delay, Varner was building up a lead in the Tour’s flagship event.

He got a fortunate break on the first hole when Will Zalatoris’ caddie, Ryan Goble, stepped on his plugged ball just five seconds before Varner would have needed to return to hit another tee shot because of a lost ball.

From there, Varner lit up the scoreboard as was leading the tournament at 7 under when he stepped to the 17th tee. And then he became the first player to rinse his tee shot, his ball hitting deep into the green but spinning back more than 35 feet into the water surrounding the island green. Then his heart nearly stopped when his shot from the drop zone spun back toward the water but stopped on the fringe.

Varner needed three more shots from there and made triple-bogey 6. He bogeyed the last for a 3-under-par 69, three shots behind the lead.

“It’s a game. That’s why we play it. No one is going to die out there,” Varner said. “Just was in between clubs and didn’t execute the shot, and that’s what you get a lot out here. Either you get it done or you don’t.”

Varner has three weeks to get to Augusta National for the Masters. Varner’s win in the Saudi International put him inside the top 50 in the official world ranking; the top 50 at the end of the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play in three weeks qualify for Augusta. Varner is No. 48 in the world.

He is playing this week, in next week’s Valspar Championship and the Match Play.

“I want to get to Augusta,” Varner said. “I’ve always wanted to be there. I think I’ll have a great opportunity to get to Augusta.”

HV3 doesn’t have a bad bone in his body and criticizing him is a total waste of time. Winning the event in Saudi Arabia made his name appear at the top of the list of participants post-tournament, so google searches with “Saudi golf” in it would plaster his name on your screen page after page. He is in no way affiliated with them, but since he won the event he’s come under scrutiny. Honestly, name one person that wouldn’t travel half-way across the world for a sizable appearance fee to hit a golf ball for 4 days. I played in Japan one year, that doesn’t mean I support the attacks at Pearl Harbor (too soon?).

These disparaging comments will die down as the weeks on the Ture press on. One solid finish over here an all that will disappear. Golf is the epitome of “what have you done lately” so HV3 will keep his head down and focus on some standard PGA events. Kramer Hickok waded into the murky Saudi waters with his comments to the “Stripe Show” podcast a few weeks ago but a -5 opening round at TPC sidelined most of that hoopla. Bottom line is HV3 won an International event with a great field and he should be proud of that step in his career.