Valdosta Daily Times

Local Sports

January 14, 2013

Macon's Henley wins Sony Open at 24-under par

HONOLULU — On the first day of Russell Henley’s new career as a PGA TOUR member, he shot a 63 at the Sony Open in Hawaii.

On the second, he shot another 63, setting a scoring record and watching highlights of himself on TV as if he was in a trance.

There would be a 67 Saturday and a share of the lead and another scoring record with rookie buddy Scott Langley. Henley wondered out loud if he was awake.

Sunday, Henley, a native of Macon and a former golfer at the University of Georgia, finished his demolition of Waialae Country Club and the first full-field event of the year with a third 63 and an improbable, impeccable performance.

The rookie sealed his win with birdies on the final five holes, setting a scoring record with his 24-under 256 total. That is the third-best in TOUR history. No one had ever finished lower than 260 here before, though when John Huston shot that in 1998, Waialae was a par 72 and he was 28 under par.

Henley, who made two prior starts on TOUR as an amateur, also tied Dustin Johnson atop the FedExCup standings with 500 points.

Tim Clark, trying desperately to catch Henley all day, birdied his last four holes and still lost ground. Clark also broke the record by one, firing his own 63 to finish at 259 and four shots clear of anyone else.

“Obviously I gave it all I had, and he just played phenomenal,” said Clark, who simply laughed on the 17th green when Henley matched his birdie. “I was very impressed with his demeanor right from the start. I could see he was comfortable in that situation, and obviously the guy that wins a tournament on the Tour as an amateur can handle big moments.”

Only Henley, 23 and a three-time winner, was not comfortable.

“That’s the most nervous I've ever been,” he admitted. “I couldn't feel my legs or my arms. They were just numb and just moving fast and I felt like I couldn't control them. But I’ve been in that situation before, just not quite as dramatic.”

And not worth $1,008,000. Before Sunday, Henley’s golf career consisted of growing up in Macon, Ga., dreaming of playing the Masters, seven collegiate wins at the University of Georgia and his success.

All seven of his top 10s last year came in the second half of the season. In his last four starts, he has three wins and his worst score is 70.

Still, to take that success straight to the PGA TOUR in his debut is mind-boggling. He shot 29 on the back nine to hold off Clark. No one else had a chance after Henley rallied from his first bogey in 51 holes with birdie at the turn Sunday.

His lead at that point was two over Clark, Langley and Charles Howell III, who eagled the ninth.

Howell (66—263) would tie for third — his seventh top-five finish here — with Matt Kuchar (65), Langley (70), Brian Stuard (65) and Chris Kirk (66).

Henley and Clark would take their battle outside, to some new, outrageous level.

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