“I’ve been in this situation a lot the last five or six tournaments,” he said.
Henley became the first player to win in his debut as a PGA Tour rookie since Garrett Willis in the 2001 Tucson Open. That was played opposite the winners-only Mercedes Championships at Kapalua, so it wasn’t a strong field. The Sony Open was the first full-field event of the year, featuring five Ryder Cup players.
“First pro PGA event, it’s pretty cool to see him doing so well,” Matt Kuchar said.
Henley walked into his news conference with two leis draped around his neck as he stared into his phone, talking on Face Time with his mother, Sally. He came to Hawaii on his own, and lamented that he had a lot of meals by himself.
That’s about how he looked at times at Waialae. No one was around him.
Langley, tied for the lead at the start of the round, fell back quickly. He went over the back of the green into rough that made him wonder if his pitch shot would come out hot, and instead it didn’t come close to reaching the green. He made bogey as Henley hit his approach into 3 feet for a birdie and a two-shot swing.
Langley three times missed birdie putts from 5 feet on the front nine, though he still was only two shots behind. He just couldn’t keep pace. Langley closed with two birdies for a 70 to tie for third with Charles Howell III, who had a 66.
“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 hasn’t done anything wrong in about four months. In his past five tournaments dating to the 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.
There’s no telling where this will lead him. Thanks to his play on the Web.com Tour last year — No. 3 on the money list and two wins — Henley goes to No. 50 in the world. His win puts him in the Masters, PGA Championship, The Players Championship and the Bridgestone Invitational. And at No. 50 in the world and tied for the top of the FedEx Cup standings, he’s likely to get into the next two World Golf Championships — the Match Play at the end of February, Doral in early March.
Not bad for his rookie debut in the big leagues.
“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.
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