By Jonathan Wall, PGATOUR.COM Equipment Insider
Russell Henley made quite an impression in his first PGA TOUR start. The 23-year-old rookie posted rounds of 63-63-67-63, including a back-nine 29 on Sunday that included five straight birdies, to win the Sony Open in Hawaii by three shots over Tim Clark.
His score of 24-under 256 set the record for the lowest total score at the Sony Open. In the process, Henley became the first player on the PGA TOUR to win with Nike’s new 20XI X golf ball.
Henley used Nike’s 20XI X last season on the Web.com Tour but decided to switch to the latest version, for his first event of 2013 because he felt the new ball, with its larger RZN core, went farther and felt softer around the greens.
Aside from the new ball, Henley also had 14 Nike clubs in the bag for his first PGA TOUR victory.
What Russell Henley had in the bag at the Sony Open in Hawaii:
Driver: Nike VR_S (9.5 degrees) with a Graphite Design HD-7X Shaft
Fairway wood: Nike SQ Sumo (13 degrees)
Hybrid: Nike VR Pro (18 degrees)
Irons: Nike VR Pro Cavity (3-6 iron), Nike VR Pro Combo (7-9 iron)
Wedges: Nike VR Pro (47, 53 and 59 degrees)
Putter: Nike Method 006 Prototype with a long slant neck
Ball: Nike 20XI X
By Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
HONOLULU -- When you shoot 24 under it’s hard to distinguish just a single putt to win the tournament but Russell Henley did play a key stretch of holes. After making a bogey on the eighth hole, Henley birdied the ninth and 10th. Not only did those birdies act as a bounce back following his bogey, they also held off Tim Clark, who was making birdies of his own. Henley answered opponent’s birdies on Sunday with birdies of his own.
Thumbs up: Tim Clark finished second, shooting 21 under after a final round 63. When Russell Henley birdied the 17th hole, Clark caught his eye and gave him a thumbs up as if to say, ‘I’ve given you all I could and it still wasn’t enough..well done.’
Ball striking: Vijay Singh was the best ball striker in the tournament, hitting 61 of 72 greens in regulation. He finished in 20th because he struggled on the greens. Singh was 72nd in total putts with rounds of 33, 32, 31 and 29 putts. He ranked 60th (of the 74 players who made the cut) in strokes gained-putting.
Caddie: Todd Jesbold got a big paycheck as caddie for Russell Henley and he earned the money. On the 16th hole, Henley drove left of the cart path and Jesbold did the arithmetic, arriving at 161 yards. He then handed Henley a wedge explaining anything short of the hole would be just fine. There was no argument from Henley, who usually hits his wedge 145 yards. This time the ball landed on the green then, with no spin coming out of the rough, released to within 12 feet of the cup. Henley made the putt for birdie and enjoyed a victory walk on both 17 and 18.
Vog: The wind turned around and blew from the north for the final round but the light breeze made little difference in course strategy. The Kona Wind did make for a gray morning. The breezes blew volcanic ash through the sky that Islanders refer to as Vog.
Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here
Russell Henley carded his third 63 of the week on Sunday, and in the process set a tournament scoring record and rookie record for the lowest 72-hole total in PGA TOUR history on his way to winning the Sony Open in Hawaii in his first start as a member of the TOUR.
The 23-year-old finished at 24-under 256, closing out his final round with five straight birdies en route to a back-nine 29.
He finished three shots ahead of Tim Clark.
With the victory, Henley earns 500 FedExCup points and a PGA TOUR card for the next two years. He also earned a spot in THE PLAYERS Championship, the Masters and the PGA Championship.
Henley was dominant from start to finish at Waialae, where he played the par 4s in 17 under and at one point went 50 holes without a bogey.
The former University of Georgia standout, who won three times on the Web.com Tour, including once as an amateur, is the first rookie to win in his first start on TOUR since Garrett Willis in 2001.
This was hardly Henley's first time in the spotlight.
While at Georgia, he won the Haskins Award as the most outstanding collegiate golfer in 2010. He also tied for low amateur honors in the U.S. Open that year.
The following year, he won the Stadion Athens Classic at UGA, becoming just the seond amateur to win on the Web.com Tour.
In 2012, Henley captured the Chiquita Classic before earning his PGA TOUR card for the 2013 season.
Rookie Russell Henley picked up his first career win in his first start as a member of the PGA TOUR Sunday at the Sony Open in Hawaii, where he shot his third 63 of the week en route to the lowest 72-hole total by a rookie in PGA TOUR history.
Henley, who finished in a tournament-record 24 under, closed out the win with five straight birdies en route to a back-nine 29. Send him your congratulations below and we'll pass it along.
Russell Henley's chanes of getting his first career win just got better thanks to a 45-footer he jarred for birdie on the 14th hole to get to 20 under and three shots clear of his closest competitor.
The birdie was Henley's 22nd of the week and has the rookie in good position to win in his first start.
Most of Henley's dominance this week has come on the par 4s. He's made 17 birdies on them and no bogeys. Going 50 straight holes without a bogey certainly helped, too.
Now can Henley hold on? The way he's played so far, it looks like it.
One of the reasons Russell Henley is in the lead: He hadn't made a bogey since the 11th hole of the first round -- until now.
Henley just bogeyed the par-4 eighth, where he missed the green long on his approach, left his third 10 feet short of the hole and missed the putt.
It was Henley's first bogey in 50 holes.
The upside for Henley? He still leads, but not by much with Charles Howell III one shot back after turning in 3 under, and Pat Perez two back after also making the turn in 3 under.
Scott Langley, who started the day in a tie with Henley, is also 15 under as is Tim Clark.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
Some numbers to ponder ... The last rookie to win on the PGA TOUR was Charlie Beljan, who won the last event of the 2012 season. The last to do so in his PGA TOUR debut was Garrett Willis in 2001. The last to win in a first start as an official member of the PGA TOUR were Henrik Stenson and Garrett Willis, in 2007 and 2001, respectively. The last to record his first victory at the Sony Open in Hawaii: Jerry Kelly in 2001.
In other words, there's some pretty good history behind Russell Henley and Scott Langley, whom share the lead at 17 under entering Sunday's final round. They're also three shots clear of the field.
Now for a few nuggets on the leaders and why they each stand a good chance of hanging on ...
Earlier this week, Langley tied the tournament record for lowest first-round score with a 62. He also leads the field in most birdies and strokes gained-putting. mark for the lowest first-round score, an 8-under-par 62. Scott Simpson set the mark in 1991 and Brian Claar each matched it in 1997.
Henley, meanwhile, set a tournament record for the best first 36-hole start when he entered the weekend 14 under. And just two years ago, Henley became the second-ever amateur to win on the Web.com Tour when he captured the 2011 Stadion Classic at UGA one week before graduating from the University of Georgia, where he won seven times.
In other words, they're well prepared. It's just a matter of if anyone can catch them.
All eyes will be on rookies Russell Henley and Scott Langley on Sunday at Waialae. (Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
By Ann Miller, for PGATOUR.COM
HONOLULU — After he manhandled Waialae Country Club in a first-round 62 Thursday, Scott Langley waxed poetic on what drew him to the game of golf.
Langley, who shares the lead with fellow rookie Russell Henley going into Sunday’s final round of the Sony Open in Hawaii, spoke of his passion for competition and challenge.
“I love that it changes every day,” Langley said. “Hawaii is a great example. It can be really, really windy one day, it can be calm the next day, and new pins every day, different golf courses, different conditions. I love that you have to adapt.”
Langley also spoke glowingly about how golf is “a thinking man’s game.”
And then he became 23 again.
“But mostly when I was younger, it was a sport that I was the best at,” Langley shrugged. “I played basketball, I played soccer, I played baseball. I was too short for basketball, too slow for soccer, couldn’t throw hard enough for baseball, so went with golf.
“But it’s always been my greatest passion. So yeah, to this day, I had a blast out there.”
He and Henley, who won two of his last four Web.com Tour events last year to earn his card, are not shy about talking of perspective. It is what has kept them calm through three spectacular rounds in their debuts as TOUR members.
They set a tournament record Saturday, finishing together at 17-under 193, playing in the same group for the third straight day.
Sunday will be the fourth, as they tee off with 37-year-old Tim Clark in the final threesome. If Clark had not birdied the final hole, Scott Gardiner would have joined Henley and Langley in an all-rookie adventure.
The 23-year-olds know they will be nervous, but so far they have fought it off admirably, with refreshing perspective.
“It’s a fun dynamic competing against Russell because we’re such good friends,” Langley said. “We’ve known each other for so long. We’re pretty much in the same situation. He came off the Web.com Tour, I came out of Q-school. This is our first start as tour members.
“We kind of have that common bond out there, and you can see it, I think, when you see both of us play. We’re having fun, we’re smiling, we’re happy to be here. So I think that helps us play good. We’re definitely just excited about the opportunity and cherishing it.”
After one round it was Scott Langley then Russell Henley. Then Friday it was Russell Henley then Scott Langley. Now it’s Russell Henley and Scott Langley.
The two rookies, after trading the lead back-and-forth the first two days, share the 54-hole lead at the Sony Open in Hawaii, carding matching 17-under 193 totals.
Three back is 2010 PLAYERS champion Tim Clark while Charles Howell III and rookie Scott Gardiner are another shot back, tied for fourth.
Langley started the day two shots back but drew even with his friend and playing competitor with a birdie on No. 10 -- his fifth of the day. He twice pulled one clear of Henley, who evened the score with a birdie on the 18th.
Henley has gone 43 holes without a bogey and is 14 under in that span. Langley, who was bogey-free in the opening round, had two on Friday and two on Saturday but offset them with 13 birdies.