Sports and Scores
 

Henley gets PGA Tour career off to record start

(AP Photo/Marco Garcia)

By DOUG FERGUSON


Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) Russell Henley only felt like a rookie at the Sony Open.

He sure didn't play like one.

He was so nervous Sunday afternoon that he couldn't feel his arms and legs, and everything around him seemed to be moving at warp speed.

Only when he finished his record-setting performance with one last birdie did he realize what happened. And even then, he didn't know what to say.

The first player in 10 years to win in his debut as a PGA Tour rookie.

The second-best score for a 72-hole tournament in PGA Tour history, and a record score at the Sony Open by four shots.

Finishing with five straight birdies - only one of them inside 10 feet - for a 29 on the back nine and a 7-under 63, the lowest finish by a Sony Open winner.

And yes, that tee time reserved for him at the Masters in April.

"I'm pretty speechless," Henley said. "I was trying not to think about Augusta out there because I just kept telling myself, `This is a long year, you're going to play this game a long time, and be patient, it doesn't have to happen now.' Everything I could to psyche myself out of thinking about winning. It worked."

The back nine was simply surreal.

Henley won by three shots over Tim Clark, who birdied seven of his last 11 holes and still made up only one shot on the rookie from Georgia.

"When you get up close and watch a guy play ... if that's how he putts all the time, whew! It's over," Clark said.

And it was.

Tied for the lead with fellow rookie Scott Langley to start the final round, Henley seized control with a birdie on the opening hole and then poured it on at the end.

Henley had a two-shot lead with seven holes to play when he calmly sank a 10-foot par putt on the 12th, and he began to pull away with a 45-foot birdie putt on the 14th.

When the rookie rolled in an 18-foot birdie putt on the 17th to stay three shots ahead, Clark started laughing. There wasn't anything else he could do.

"He just never seemed to put a foot wrong, and when he did, he made those par putts," Clark said. "That's when you know a guy is comfortable, when he's making those 8- to 10-footer for par. But I still got on the 15th hole and said, `Well, let's finish with four birdies and see what happens.' And sure enough, he birdied the last four, too. When a guy plays that well and beats you, you just have to be happy for them."

Henley finished at 24-under 256, breaking by four shots the Sony Open scoring record held by Brad Faxon in 2001 and John Huston in 1998. It was the second-lowest score for a 72-hole tournament in PGA Tour history, two shots behind Tommy Armour III in 2003 at the Texas Open.

And that wasn't the only mark Henley left on Waialae Country Club. He set tournament records for the low 36-hole score after his 63-63 start, he shared the 54-hole record with Langley and set another tournament record with the lowest final round by a champion.

Welcome to the big leagues, kid.

He became the first PGA Tour rookie to win his debut since Garrett Willis in the 2001 Tucson Open, which was held the same week as the winners-only event in Kapalua. And the way he putts, there's no telling where this will lead.

For starters, the 23-year-old from Macon, Ga., can add a local event to his schedule - he's going to the Masters in April.

"I don't really know what happened, honestly," Henley said. "This is the most nervous I've ever been. That's the hardest thing I've ever done. It's been my goal to make it to the Masters my whole life. I'm kind of speechless right now."

He then acknowledged his parents and his girlfriend, watching from home. Henley spent his first week as a tour member on his own, and that's about how he looked on Sunday at Waialae Country Club. No one was particularly close to him.

Clark, finally feeling healthy after a mysterious elbow injury after his runner-up finish at the Sony Open in 2011, shot 63. Charles Howell III closed with a 66 to tie for third with Langley, who birdied his last two holes for a 70.

"I wish I would have played a little bit better today and made some more putts," said Langley, who missed three birdie putts of 5 feet on the front nine. "But Russell played so awesome. I don't even know if I could have caught him."

Henley only looked to be in big trouble when he hooked his tee shot well left on the 16th, flirting with out of bounds.

No problem. He hammered a pitching wedge from 160 yards over a large tree and a row of royal pines to 12 feet and turned trouble into a birdie.

On the strength of his Web.com season last year - two wins and No. 3 on the money list - the win allowed Henley to crack the top 50 in the world ranking.

That should be enough to get him into the Match Play Championship for the top 64 in the world, with the qualifying date only a month away, and he should be set for the other WGC at Doral. The win qualifies him for Firestone in August, along with the PGA Championship.

Not bad for his PGA Tour debut.

Then again, the Georgia kid has been on a roll. In his past five tournaments dating to end of September - four of those on the Web.com Tour - Henley is 73-under par. His scoring average in those five events is 67.15.

Henley seized control immediately with an approach that barely cleared the bunker and settled 3 feet away for birdie. For Langley, it was a struggle from the start. He went over the green and into the rough with a lie that looked as if it might jump on him.

Instead, he decelerated and moved it only about 10 feet, chipped to 5 feet and watched the bogey putt swirl into the cup. At least that one went in.

Despite falling two behind after one hole, Langley had ample opportunity to make up ground, except that his stroke was quick and he missed short birdie chances.

When they made the turn, Henley had a two-shot lead.

Clark got in the game by running off three straight birdies around the turn to get within two shots.

No one else came particularly close. Howell, twice a runner-up at the Sony Open, made a 15-foot eagle putt on the ninth to get within one shot, but only as long as it took Henley to two-putt for birdie on the ninth and smash a drive on the 10th that set up a pitch-and-putt birdie.

Pat Perez and Matt Kuchar also put themselves in good position in case Henley was to fold. That never materialized, and never looked as if it even would - not with that putting stroke. Henley had 33 one-putt greens for the tournament, seven of them over the final nine holes.

"I can't imagine what people at home watching this tournament saw," Clark said. "That's kind of what we were feeling out there."

Updated January 14, 2013

? © 2015 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

Audio On Demand

Chris Price, WEEI.com, jo…

Chris Price, WEEI.com, joins Butch Stearns to talk franchise tags and NFL free agency 3-1-15

Price calls Butch to discuss the March 2nd deadline for franchise tags, free agency and the Pats' plans going forward.

Jim Quirk, NFLRA Executive Director, talks with Mut about the NFLRA's statement, 2-18-15

Shortly after the NFLRA released its statement demanding an apology from ESPN, Jim Quirk, the NFLRA's Executive Director, joined Mut to talk about the statement

Chris Price joins Mike Mutnansky, 2-5-15

WEEI's Chris Price joins Mut to talk about his experience of being in yesterday's Patriots championship parade, and which New England free agents could return to play for the Pats next season.

SB Nation's Paul Flannery…

SB Nation's Paul Flannery joins Mike Mutnansky, 2-19-15

Flannery joins Mut to break down the Isaiah Thomas trade to Boston and what it means for the Celtics this season and in the future. Paul also chats with Mut about the other deals that happened at the NBA's trading deadline

SI's Chris Mannix with Dale and Holley

We talk to Chris Mannix from SI to break down the C's acquisition of Isaiah Thomas and the crazy trade deadline in the rest of the NBA.

We Love Anthony Davis - Jessica Camerato joins us to talk Marcus Smart

Jessica Camerato of basketballinsiders.com joins the show to talk about Marcus Smart, the starting lineup, and trade deadline.

WEEI.com's Rob Bradford (…

WEEI.com's Rob Bradford (@Bradfo) joins Butch Stearns from sunny Fort Myers on "Picture Day" 3-1-15

The one and only Rob Bradford calls Butch to discuss his early thoughts on this Red Sox team, the potential in the rotation, how the outfield will shake out and more.

David Ortiz says remove instant replay to increase pace of baseball

David Ortiz takes a few minutes to talk with Mut, Bradford, and Tomase about some of his new teammates, who Pablo Sandoval reminds him of, and the rules aimed at speeding up the game of baseball.

Hot Stove Show 02-26-15

Mut, Bradford, and Tomase are talking Red Sox spring training. and talk with Red Sox DH David Ortiz about the rules aimed at speeding up the pace of the game

Sunday Skate with WEEI's …

Sunday Skate with WEEI's DJ Bean and ESPN Boston's Joe McDonald - Hour #2 3-1-15

In the second of Sunday Skate, DJ and Joe discuss the approaching NHL trade deadline and what the B's will do. They get into the Boychuk move at the beginning of the season and Boychuk's brother venting on Twitter this morning about complaining B's fans. There is more discussion on the 3rd and 4th lines, their playoff chances and then they are joined by ESPN's Scott Burnside.

Sunday Skate with WEEI's DJ Bean and ESPN Boston's Joe McDonald - Hour #1 3-1-15

Another edition of Sunday Skate is upon us and DJ and Joe get into the B's big win over Arizona last night and the improvement of Ryan Spooner. They get into the Blackhawks giving up a 1st round pick for C Antoine Vermette - someone the B's could certainly use but weren't willing to give up the steep price of a 1st rounder. DJ and Joe also get into Claude's willingness to switch up lines as well as the performance of the 3rd and 4th lines. Finally, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman sits down with the boys.

Scott Burnside, ESPN, joins DJ Bean and Joey Mac on Sunday Skate 3-1-15

Scott Burnside joins the boys to discuss the Bruins and the NHL trade deadline.

Headlines, Headlines, Hea…

Headlines, Headlines, Headlines: SNL's ISIS Sketch 3-2-15

All the latest stories brought to you by Kirk Minihane.

Curt Schilling takes on the Twitter trolls 3-2-15

Curt Schilling didn't back down when twitter trolls took shots at his daughter. Dino, Gerry and Kirk applaud Schill's stand.

The guys recap their weekend in Fort Myers 03-02-15

Dino, Gerry and Kirk look back at their weekend in Fort Myers. Who visited Mommy and Daddy over the weekend?

Three For All - Dunkin Do…

Three For All - Dunkin Donuts steals Christian's bacon-doughnut idea, 3-2-15

Dunkin Donuts liked Christian's "bacon covered doughnut" idea. SNL does an ISIS skit. The Pittsburg Pirates issued a statement condemning "Jihadi John's" Pirates hat.

Adam Schefter, ESPN, thinks Revis will hit the free agency, 3-2-15

With free agency looming, Adam Schefter, on Sportscenter, said that he thinks Darrelle Revis will NOT be re-signed by the Patriots and that they will cut him instead, making him the most coveted free agent on the market.

Barry Melrose, ESPN, says Bruins need to make more moves, 3-2-15

Barry Melrose joined the show to talk about the NHL trade deadline. Although Melrose likes the trade of Brett Connolly from Tampa to Boston, he thinks the team needs to make more moves to keep ahead of Florida, who just traded for Jaromir Jagr. He also weighs in on the job security of Claude Julien and Peter Chiarelli.

With only a few minor mov…

With only a few minor moves, have the Bruins done enough to compete in 2015?

Michael, Mike Mutnansky and Jerry Thornton talk Bruins AFTER the trade-deadline and check in with the fans.

Dale and Holley's Four at Four - Trade Deadline Deals Edition - 03-02-15

We examine four trade deadline day deals that helped or affected Boston teams in recent history.

What do the Bruins need to do at the deadline?

Michael, Mike Mutnansky and Jerry Thornton talk Bruins before the trade-deadline and check in with the fans.

The Rev Girls come in stu…

The Rev Girls come in studio to talk MLS

Mikey, Mut, and Lenny are joined by the Rev girls, who are revealing the New Revolution uniform Tuesday at the House of Blues in Boston and talking about the Revs.

Bill "Spaceman" Lee talks Red Sox spring training andCuban baseball players

Mikey, Lenny, and Maggie talk Red Sox baseball with Red Sox Hall of Famer Bill Lee, who is in Florida and out of the snow that's perpetually burying the area.

Kirk Minihane calls to clear the air with Mikey

Mikey gets a call from Kirk Minihane, who wants to clear the air with Mikey and get everything settled. It goes better than you think.

D&C's Breaking Balls: The…

D&C's Breaking Balls: The podcast is on the road with special guest Doug Lane 3-2-15

Dino, Gerry and Kirk talk about their time in Fort Myers and are joined by a special guest, Doug Lane.

College Puckcast – BU coach David Quinn talks Beanpot title, state of team

Boston University coach David Quinn joins WEEI’s Scott McLaughlin to discuss the Terriers’ Beanpot title and how he feels about his team as the postseason approaches. Quinn also discusses reports about NHL interest in goalie Matt O’Connor and briefly touches on a recent misstep by Jack Eichel.

We Love Anthony Davis - We Love Isaiah Thomas Too

After a wild trade deadline, Ben Kichen and Sam Packard breakdown the Celtics and the rest of the NBA. Then Sam yells at Ben about the use of analytics in basketball. Ben yells back.

Curt Schilling takes on t…

Curt Schilling takes on the Twitter trolls 3-2-15

Curt Schilling didn't back down when twitter trolls took shots at his daughter. Dino, Gerry and Kirk applaud Schill's stand.

More from this show

Headlines, Headlines, Hea…

Headlines, Headlines, Headlines: SNL's ISIS Sketch 3-2-15

All the latest stories brought to you by Kirk Minihane.

More from this show

The guys recap their week…

The guys recap their weekend in Fort Myers 03-02-15

Dino, Gerry and Kirk look back at their weekend in Fort Myers. Who visited Mommy and Daddy over the weekend?

More from this show

Adam Schefter, ESPN, thin…

Adam Schefter, ESPN, thinks Revis will hit the free agency, 3-2-15

With free agency looming, Adam Schefter, on Sportscenter, said that he thinks Darrelle Revis will NOT be re-signed by the Patriots and that they will cut him instead, making him the most coveted free agent on the market.

More from this show

Butch gives his take on t…

Butch gives his take on the pace of play debate and the Red Sox rotation 3-1-15

Butch talks with callers about the polarizing pace of play debate and gets some pretty strange ideas on how to speed things up. He also gets into the how the rotation is shaping up for the Sox and other Red Sox related issues heading into the season.

More from this show

Weei Writers