I'm not the only Bulldog that can play some golf. - Christian Petersen
Dynamite amateur work leading to solid mini tour pro work leads UGA golfer Russell Henley to win his first PGA tour event, the first time he played a PGA tour event.
The PGA Tour Sony Open is played at the Waialae Country Club in Honolulu, Hawaii. The course setup for the tour event plays to a par of 70 and a yardage of 7,068. The course is set up a little easier with less rough to get the PGA tour started with a little more flair, but that can't possibly diminish a historical type performance to breakout on to the Professional Golf Association Tour. Russell Henley just blew the doors off the whole thing.
Russell played fairly solid golf tee to green throughout this tournament and although rather errant on fairways in regulation at times, he used his youthful strength and solid putting to find the hole. He started after round one in 2nd place with a remarkable 63, and then carded another 63 (course record for PGA set up is a 62) to propel him to 1st place going into Saturday. He shot -3 for a 67 on Sat giving him a tie for first place going into Sunday. To start the fourth round, he immediately jumped into a 2 shot lead by carding a birdie on the first hole while his paired partner Scott Langley bogeyed. Henley advanced at Hole 7 to a three shot lead as he made par and Langley bogeyed. On number 8 Henley pushed a drive and then took an aggressive approach leading to a chip and two putt, dropping a shot to shorten his lead. Henley then regained a 2 shot lead with a birdie on 9. Carding another birdie on 10 kept him in the driver's seat going in. Henley missed the fairway on 12 and found himself scrambling for a great par save. Russell demonstrated more putting mastery with a 43 foot putt on number 14 for birdie and a took 3 shot lead at 20 under and then pushing further ahead with a birdie on 15, keeping control of his own destiny as he settled in at -21 for the final holes and looking like a sure winner. Pulling out an iron on 16 to play conservative to finish, Henley went hard left off the tee, facing another difficult approach that he hit a mile high over trees from a crazy angle and in position for yet another made birdie putt pulling into -22 and 3 ahead. Continuing to give no mercy Russell has a solid tee shot onto the par 3 17th looking at and making yet another birdie to go -23 and 3 ahead of Tim Clark. Missing the fairway into a bunker on number 18 Henley smartly ran the ball up just short of the green, leaving himself with a sure par and possible birdie, knowing victory is at hand and finishes out with yet another birdie going to -24 and 5 straight birdies.
Shooting 63, 63, 67, 63 is a very solid recipe for success carding a -24. Which is the lowest 72 hole score for a PGA rookie in history. His 24 under par is a record for the Sony Open.
Russell Henley was born in Macon, Georgia. He played college golf at the University of Georgia where he won the 2010 Haskins Award as the most outstanding collegiate golfer. Also in 2010 Henley played in the U.S. Open and tied for the low amateur. Henley represented the United States National team in the 2010 and 2011 Palmer cup where they won and also represented the US at the 2011 Walker Cup.
In 2011, Henley won the Stadion Classic at UGA on the Nationwide Tour. He became only the second amateur to win on the Tour, a remarkable feat to win as an amateur on a pro tour. This win would propel him onto the mini pro tours. In September 2011 Russell Henley made his professional debut at the Nationwide Tour's Soboba Golf Classic. He has carded three Web.com tour wins, what is commonly called a "mini tour" which "graduated" him in 2012 as 3rd on the Web.com tour money list and onto this year's PGA tour, where he played in his first PGA tour tournament, the 2013 Sony Open in Hawaii that he just won. Russell's full bio can be found in his media guide.
Other UGA golfers of note Harris English had a good tournament carding a -14 tied for 9th and Chris Kirk surged as well to score -16 tied for 5th place. That puts 3 UGA golfers in the money today.
This Sony Open victory qualifies 23 year old Mr. Henley for the Masters this April as well as the PGA Championship and a 2 year tour exemption. Also of note Russell Henley became the youngest player to win this tournament. As he states Augusta is one of his favorite courses, I'm sure he's on cloud nine. Thanks Russell for winning SEC championships for UGA, doing Macon, Georgia proud, and representing the Red and Black on tour. And for you...
Edit: Henley collects a nice $1,008,000 for the win, Kirk $204,400,& English $145,600 /hattip leedawg