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Harold Varner III facing backlash after LIV decision: 'I hate to be hated'

Highlights: Varner nearly holes out for albatross at No. 14
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Harold Varner III made clear this week why he left the PGA Tour for LIV Golf.

First in an Instagram post Tuesday, then in a press conference Wednesday, Varner said that it was purely a financial decision.

“The truth is,” he wrote, “my life is changing. The opportunity to join LIV Golf is simply too good of a financial breakthrough for me to pass by. I know what it means to grow up without much. This money is going to ensure that my kid and future Varners will have a solid base to start on – and a life I could have only dreamt about growing up.”

Financial terms of Varner’s arrangement weren’t made available, but he likely received a signing bonus commensurate with a top-50 player who is now inked for multiple years. Varner, 32, has made more than $10 million in his PGA Tour career, including $2.2 million this season.

Despite being upfront about his motivation for leaving the Tour, Varner said he received plenty of vitriol on social media. He said he purposely read through the comments to gauge how his fans were reacting to the news.

“It sucked,” he told reporters Wednesday in Boston, where he had his introductory press conference alongside Bubba Watson. “Who likes to be hated? It’s terrible. I hate being hated. I’d rather not even be known than be hated.

Varner III receives backlash: 'Who likes to be hated?'

Varner III receives backlash: 'Who likes to be hated?'

“I just hate to be hated because you’re doing what’s best for you, and whenever someone else is doing something that’s best for them, I’m like, How can I help? How can I help you make a better decision? What are you making this decision? That should be more of the language instead of, like, Well, you didn’t do what I want you to do, so I hate you. I’m done. I’m unfollowing. You can’t win that.”

Currently ranked 46th in the world, Varner played each of the four majors this year for the first time in his career, but his future prospects are unclear because LIV doesn’t offer world-ranking points and it’s not yet known if the major organizations will alter their qualifying criteria for 2023. Varner was asked his level of concern about playing in the majors moving forward.

“For me, that weighed a lot,” he said. “This is my first year playing in every major, so it was cool. But I think it’s way cooler making sure my kid doesn’t have to worry about anything. That’s about it.”