MARANA, Ariz. -- This match was a tight one with Jason Day getting to 2 up for just one hole. Otherwise, the Aussie was 1 up for eight holes and Russell Henley, who was making his Accenture Match Play Championship debut, held the same advantage for six.
Day got the edge early when he birdied the second hole. But two of his three bogeys, which came at the fifth and sixth holes, put Henley, who birdied No. 6, on top.
The two halved the eighth hole with birdies so Henley was 1 up at the turn. Day quickly turned the tide, though, when he won three straight -- starting with a birdie at the 12th, followed by a par at No. 11 and another birdie at the 13th.
That 2-up lead was short-lived, though, as Henley made a 7-footer for birdie at the 14th. The rookie, who won the Sony Open in Hawaii early this year, then made a 14-footer at the 18th hole to extend the match only to lose to Day's 9-footer on the first extra hole after missing one from 13 feet of his own.
"I think Russell only missed one green today, which was very, very frustrating on my side, because he hit it great, so that means you have to make birdie," Day said. "I just did enough today to win. He was very clutch on 18 to actually hole the putt and get it back to all square. And fortunately I hit a nice tight one into the 19th hole, and he missed his birdie putt and I holed one, which was nice.
SCORECARD STATS: Day made five birdies and three bogeys in 19 holes. Henley made four birdies and two bogeys.
HOLES WON: Day won five holes. Henley won four holes.
NEXT OPPONENT: Bubba Watson, who beat Jim Furyk on the 22nd hole.
MARANA, Ariz. -- Russell Henley has a new nickname: "Mr. Bracket Buster."
That's exactly what the PGA TOUR rookie did to many fantasy golf fans when he upset Charl Schwartzel 1 up in the first round of the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship.
"I've heard a lot of comments from people saying they expected him to win, and that gave me a little motivation for sure," Henley acknowledged. "But he's an outstanding player, obviously. Can't really not be a great player when you win the Masters."
Henley, who won his first start as a PGA TOUR member earlier this year in Hawaii, shook off a disappointing double bogey-bogey finish on Wednesday that eliminated his 2-up advantage. He came out Thursday and won the 12th hole with a par and the 13th with a birdie to regain that edge, then reeled off five straight pars to win the match.
Schwartzel did get one back with a 3-foot birdie at the 15th hole after a brilliant shot from a fairway bunker. But Henley, who played on the 2011 Walker Cup team, hung tough until the 18th hole.
"I tried not to get too up or down," Henley said. "TRhat was one of the biggest things mentally, just hang tough with an even keel. That's something I've worked on this whole year."
The candidates for the PGA TOUR's Player of the Month presented by Avis for January are in. Here is a closer at each of their performances, and you can vote for your favorite player here. You can also share your thoughts below.
Tiger Woods: Won his only start of the season, finishing at 14 under to coast to a four-shot victory at the Farmers Insurance Open, which he's now won seven times.
Dustin Johnson: Opened the season with a victory at the winners-only Hyundai Tournament of Champions, which was shortened to three rounds because of weather. He withdrew due illness in his next start at the Sony Open in Hawaii and finished in a tie for 51st at Torrey Pines.
Brian Gay: Shot final-round 63 in come-from-behind win at the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation. Tied for 31st in his only other start of the month at the Sony Open in Hawaii.
Russell Henley: Won in his first start as a professional on the PGA TOUR, carding three 63s on his way to capturing the Sony Open in Hawaii. Finished in a tie for 51st the following week at PGA West.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Not that he needed any more confidence, but Russell Henley opened the first round of the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation by hitting the flagstick with his approach to the par-4 10th.
The ball settled 2 feet from the pin for an easy birdie and Henley was off and running. The rookie winner of last week's Sony Open in Hawaii went on to fire a 64 on the Nicklaus Course at PGA West that left him one shot off the lead.
"Got off to a fast start," Henley acknowledged. "... It was cool to start out with a birdie. And gave me a little confidence and I just fed on it all day. It was a perfect day. The weather is perfect. Greens were true. So it's just trying to stay patient and let the birdies come to me. And I made some good putts."
Henley, who made an eagle, seven birdies and a lone bogey, used just 24 putts in the first round. He hit 12 of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens in regulation, too.
And don't think that with each mounting birdie Henley wasn't entertaining the idea of shooting what would have been a phenomenal fourth 63 in five rounds as a PGA TOUR member.
"I thought about it coming down the stretch," Henley said, smiling. "I was thinking about hopefully trying to get it to 10, but I was trying to push that thought out of my mind. I would be lying if I said that wasn't going through my head a little bit. I gave myself a lot of good chances and it could have been lower, could have been higher.
"Felt great about the putter and just stayed patient and it was a really good day, I'm very happy with it."
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Russell Henley, who won last week's Sony Open in Hawaii in his first start as a PGA TOUR member, didn't hesitate when asked who are the other young players he finds impressive.
The 23-year-old's first choice was Rory McIlroy. Tell us someone we don't know, a reporter suggested. So Henley picked his former Georgia teammate, Harris English.
And English, who tied for ninth last week at Waialae, is lending credence to his friend's words during the first round of the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation. He was briefly tied for the lead and now sits in a big group at 4 under, one stroke behind Bobby Gates.
Also tied at 4 under are Jeff Maggert, Jesper Parnevik, Martin Laird, Joey Snyder III, Jason Kokrak, Stephen Ames, Jerry Kelly, Fabian Gomez and Patrick Cantlay. English has played 10 holes on the Nicklaus Private Course at PGA West.
Henley is from Macon, Ga. while English grew up in Valdosta. Both graduated from Georgia in 2011 with a degree in consumer economics. Henley won twice on the Web.com Tour last year while English picked up one victory in 2011.
"I've been playing golf against him since I was 11," Henley said. "And he's just very, very impressive physically, obviously hits the ball a long way, and he can shoot low scores. He shot 62 last week on Saturday, finished top 10. He's playing great. Been playing great for a long time now.
"And physically what he can do with the golf ball is probably the most impressive I've seen. And mentally he's always impressed me. His perspective and his competitiveness and his toughness is just very impressive to me. I think that you're going to be seeing a lot of him for a long time.
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
Macon, Ga., is about 4,500 miles from Honolulu, Hawaii, but the vibe in Russell Henley's hometown school was absolutely tropical on Tuesday.
After Henley won the Sony Open in Hawaii in his first start as a professional on the PGA TOUR, his former high school, Stratford Academy in Macon, celebrated his win with a Hawaiian theme on Tuesday.
Students and teachers at the high school and middle school level wore Hawaiian shirts, with the theme extending into the night during the school's basketball game against Brentwood.
"The energy here today has been amazing," said Jaime Kaplan, the school's alumni director and tennis coach. "So many people here know Russell. Everybody knows everybody here."
In addition to wearing Hawaiian shirts, Kaplan also handed out 350 leis.
"I cornered the market at Party City," she said.
Even the school's headmaster, Dr. Robert Veto, wore a Hawaiian shirt and lei. Kaplan said a couple of local television stations visited the school to produce reports about Russell Henley Day.
Henley's father, Chapin, also visited the school and walked around for an hour, enjoying the buzz caused by his son's impressive breakthrough win.
No doubt Henley, who is playing in this week's Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation, will get a full report from his father about the celebration back home.
Photo below: The Stratford Academy golf team celebrates Henley's Sony Open win
By Travis Fulton, Director of Instruction, PGA TOUR Academy
Not a bad start for Russell Henley, who in his first week on the PGA TOUR won the Sony Open in Hawaii and was just terrific down the stretch on Sunday, birdieing the last five holes to win by three.
One of the things that Henley has worked on over the last year is making his golf swing less "armsy." This can be a very common habit for many players resulting in bad timing and loss of power through impact. The fix lies in the ability to tie the arm swing more to the movement of the body -- both during the backswing and through impact.
Many times this week you could see how Henley kept his lead arm attached to his chest. It almost appeared as if his left arm couldn’t move unless his torso turned. When a player gets armsy or disconnected you will see the lead arm come off the chest and move independently of the body.
A good drill to help feel and exaggerate this is to make a straight line with your lead arm and club shaft at address. From there, attach your lead arm to the side of your torso creating a bit of pressure in the armpit. Maintain this pressure point and straight line and hit some half to three-quarter shots off a tee with what feels like very passive hands. The lead hand is really the key because it allows the lead arm and club shaft to stay in line. You may notice if the lead hand becomes overly active it will disrupt this straight line immediately sending the club head around the trail hip with no shoulder turn. When kept in-line, the shoulders will have to turn in order for the club head to travel around the body.
This is a simple way to feel the body more as the engine of the swing. Once you accomplish the smaller swings, then allow for a bigger swing where the wrists fully hinge during the backswing and re-hinge after impact. A good wrist hinge will allow the club head to work more up and down but again, you will notice how the club shaft and lead arm maintain a sense of alignment and tied to the body.
Travis Fulton is the Director of Instruction at the TOUR Academies at TPC Sawgrass and the World Golf Village. For more information on the TOUR Academy, click here.
TOUR rookie Russell Henley was victorious in his first event as a PGA TOUR member, making five consecutive birdies to close out his win at the Sony Open in Hawaii. With this victory, Henley ...