For all of the doubters out there that thought a rookie would fold under the pressure of leading during the final round of a PGA Tour event, Russell Henley has proven you wrong. Henley held on to win the Sony Open at 24 under par, three strokes better than second place finisher Tim Clark. Defending champion Johnson Wagner missed the cut and therefore did not play the weekend.
With his victory, Henley became the first PGA Tour rookie in a decade to win his debut event. Did I forget to mention that he also shot the second best score for a 72 hole tournament in the history of the PGA Tour and shattered the record score of the Sony Open by four strokes? Yeah, I’d say that’s a pretty good start to a professional golf career. He has also assured himself of a spot in The Masters this 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.”
And it’s not as if the rest of the field just gave this tournament to Henley. Clark, the second place finisher birdied seven of the last 11 holes, but still only managed to make up one measly shot. That’s because Henley birdied the last five holes to finish the back nine with a 29 and a 63 for his final round.
He clearly played four phenomenal rounds of golf, but it is his ability on the greens that is almost awe-inspiring. He ended the tournament with 33 one-putts, but seven of those came during the pressure filled back nine on Sunday. This kid is simply unflappable on the greens. If he can keep it up, this is going to be the first of many trophies that he hoists in the next few years.