Scott Langley will be playing in his first PLAYERS Championship this week. (Halleran/Getty Images)
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Bob Estes withdrew from THE PLAYERS Championship before his round Thursday, citing illness.
Scott Langley replaced him in the field and with minutes to spare as Estes was in the second-to-last group of the day.
The 24-year-old was originally in the field -- until being bumped by Derek Ernst, who got in by winning the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow last week.
This is Langley's first PLAYERS Championship. He comes in off two straight missed cuts and has one top 10 this season, a tie for third at the Sony Open in Hawaii.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Wednesday night at a reception hosted by CBS, Scott Langley showed he had the gift of gab as he sparred with Jim Nantz and Nick Faldo in an informal Q&A session designed to spotlight some of the PGA TOUR's best young players.
And in Thursday's first round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, Langley put those physical talents on full display as he shot a 65 on the Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula Country Club that left him one stroke off the lead.
"Golf is such a funny game," the 23-year-old said. "I didn't have a ton of expectations coming into today. But I just got out there and got off to kind of a slow start to be honest but kind of picked it up really quickly."
Indeed. The PGA TOUR rookie bogeyed the second hole from a "funky stance" beside the fairway bunker but righted the ship and made seven birdies in his next 14 holes to briefly share the lead. He chose the wrong club at the 17th hole, though, opting for a 4-wood instead of the 7-wood or driver he feels most comfortable with there, found the rough and had to punch out on the way to a closing bogey.
"But I had a lot of good and that's what I take from today, seven birdies," Langley said. "I putted very well. I just, you know, besides the two mistakes, hit the ball very well for the most part."
Langley may be a rookie but he is well-acquainted with these scenic courses on the California coast. He's been here so much he even has a favorite restaurant over on the Monterey wharf where the owner, who is an avid golfer, greets him with a bag of red tees.
Langley's love affair with golf on the Monterey Peninsula essentially began when he teamed with Dana Quigley to win the pro-junior division of The First Tee Open in 2006 when he was 17 and Pebble Beach and Del Monte Country Club were in the rotation. He returned to tie for 16th at the 2010 U.S. Open.
Langley then became the first former participant of The First Tee to earn his TOUR card last year when he tied for 17th at q-school. He played in last year's AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on a sponsor's exemption and missed the cut -- but Langley appears to be making up for lost time this week.
"I came here when I was young and I was so amazed at how beautiful this place is," Langley said. "You get distracted a little bit by the views. I remember when I was younger, I came here and played and I was so nervous on 7 and 17, these iconic holes of Pebble Beach.
"And I feel differently now. I feel more comfortable here, more at ease. I've had good results here so maybe that helps my confidence a little bit."
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Scott Langley already has won at Pebble Beach. Only, it was in the pro-junior division of The First Tee Open in 2006.
The PGA TOUR rookie, who tied for 16th at the 2010 U.S. Open on the same storied links, returns this week to make his second start at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am (he missed the cut in 2012). Langley says competing in The First Tee Open as a teenager was an eye-opening ride.
"That was such an amazing experience, ... coming here for the first time and capturing the beauty of the place and being able to play and compete and be alongside professional golfers inside the ropes," he said. "... Then to come back for the U.S. Open in 2010 and play well as an amateur, just I love this place. There is something about it. I don't know. Maybe I read the greens well. Maybe it just suits my game. I don't know.
"Just when I come here I'm very much a peace and I love it."
Langley earned his spot in 2005 and '06 after going through a multi-tiered selection process. The First Tee hopefuls gathered in Manhattan, Kansas and were evaluated based on their golf skills, a series of interviews and essays they wrote. He was a member of the chapter in St. Louis and is the first First Tee alumn to earn his PGA TOUR card.
Langley, who tied for 17th at q-school to earn those playing privileges, knows he has a job to do this week, though. He still marvels at the beauty of the place but he isn't as distracted by the spectacular vistas.
"I can just kind of get down to playing golf now, which is good," Langley said.
His rookie campaign has started off wih a bang as Langley opened with a 62 and tied for third at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Contending all four days turned out to be more draining than he expected, though, and he missed his next two cuts.
"I'm learning," Langley said candidly. "Sony was awesome. Wouldn't have it any other way. think it maybe took a little bit out of me that I'll learn to grow from in the future and manage my energy a little bit better. But I'm a rookie. I mean, it's a long year. It's a learning process for sure.
"We're just getting into it. We haven't even left the west coast yet."
And the best part? He's at Pebble Beach this week.
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 taking a triple bogey on No. 9 (pictured) Chris Kirk eagled the 18th to go 1-over on par 5s. (Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
By: Fred Albers, PGA TOUR.COM Correspondent
HONOLULU -- The last group on Sunday will be comprised of Russell Henley, Scott Langley and Tim Clark. That’s a pair of rookies and a veteran with victory at the 2010 PLAYERS Championship on his resume. It was critical for Clark to make his birdie putt on the 18th hole to get into that final group. He will be able to know exactly where he stands the entire round and detect any rookie nerves that may be present in Henley and Langley.
Putting: Scott Langley is tied for the lead because he is a good player but he has putted the grass off the greens this week with phenomenal efficiency. The rookie has made 403-feet, 8-inches in putts. He is 40 of 44 on putts measuring 10 feet or less. Langley has hit 37 of 54 greens to rank 44th in the tournament but he is second in total putts and No. 1 in strokes gained - putting.
It happens to everyone: Chris Kirk was 3 under and making a charge until a triple bogey on the par-5 ninth hole. He said two bad swings led to a pair of drops and the eventual eight. In fact, Kirk made a 20 footer just to salvage that triple. Maybe it was just the Golf Gods getting even. Kirk eagled both par 5s on Friday with putts of 3 feet or less. Kirk was back in form at the 18th, holing an eagle chip to shoot 68 and stand at 12 under.
Scrambling: Tim Clark has missed 14 greens the entire week and gotten up and down 13 times. He leads the tournament in scrambling, having played 54 holes with just one bogey. That came on the sixth hole in the third round when Clark missed from 8 feet, 11 inches.
Greens: Once again, the greens were receptive for the entire third round. The moisture content in the putting surfaces allows shots to hold the green. Officials have not watered this week but the naturally wet Hawaiian winter has the greens moist and lush which leads to birdie chances. As a bonus for golfers, the trade winds were a non-factor on Saturday. Winds were less than 10 miles per hour. The forecast calls for winds out of the northwest on Sunday, which could favor experienced players.
Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here.
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.
Scott Langley and Russell Henley were stellar in their debuts as TOUR pros. (Getty Images, PGA TOUR)
By Ann Miller, for PGATOUR.COM
HONOLULU — The rookie class of 2013 came barging in Thursday at the Sony Open in Hawaii.
Scott Langley made his first round as a PGA TOUR member memorable, firing an 8-under 62 to take the lead in the first full-field event of the year.
Russell Henley, another rookie, is one shot back and 14 of the 23 rookies at Waialae Country Club are in the top 44.
Henley and Langley played in the same group, with Luke Guthrie, Langley’s teammate and roommate at the University of Illinois. In two weeks, all three will be 23.
The three rookies, who met in middle school, will remember Thursday when they are 103.
“I think there was a lot of nerves for me the first few holes,” said Henley, “and I think playing with Scotty and Luke was huge for me, and watching them play well kind of gave me a goal to try to keep up with them, so it was definitely fun feeding off them.”
Henley won a 2011 Web.com Tour event as an amateur, a week before he graduated from Georgia. He won twice more last year, finishing third on the money list.
He and Langley tied for low amateur at the 2010 U.S. Open, sharing 16th. Thursday, they were in awe of how far they had come from one year ago at a Hooters Tour event.
“He had just missed the cut, I barely made the cut, we were on the range trying to help each other find it,” Langley recalled.
“You know, we just were walking up 16, today you could see the ocean behind, PGA TOUR signs everywhere. We looked at each other and realized this is pretty cool. To look back one year ago and to know that we weren’t here, we were in a far different place.”
They earned their way, along with all the other rookies.
Langley, who got his accounting degree in 2011, won the 2010 NCAA championship. He is the TOUR’s first graduate of the First Tee program and he earned his card with a 17th-place finish at Q-School.
“I know, speaking from my experience, as soon as I got my card I couldn't wait until today,” Langley said. “The competitor in me was just really excited to get going. But I don’t know what it is. Russell played great today, Morgan Hoffmann played great, and Ben Kohles and a bunch of guys.
“We’re just all excited to play, excited to be out here. Whether or not we're more motivated than others, I don't know. I'm pretty motivated to play well, but I think we help each other, the young guys.”
And the guys before help as well.
“It's just fun to see our peers who we've seen for so long be out here, Bud Cauley, Rickie (Fowler), Cameron Tringale, doing so well, being in contention to win tournaments,” Langley added. “When we do get out here, we believe that we can play well because we see the guys that we have played against our whole careers doing the same thing.”
Scott Langley, the first alum of The First Tee program to earn a PGA TOUR card, took the first-round lead at the Sony Open in Hawaii in his debut as a TOUR member.
Langley made six birdies and an eagle in his bogey-free opening-round 62 that left him one shot ahead of fellow rookie and Thursday playing competitor Russell Henley.
Scott Piercy and Tim Clark are another shot back at 6 under whole Jeff Overton and Stephen Ames round out the top 5 at 5 under.
It was the rookies stealing the show, however.
A total of 23 PGA TOUR rookies teed it up at the Sony Open and three are currently inside the top 10 -- Morgan Hoffmann is T7 at 4 under.
Langley, who won the 2010 NCAA title while at Illinois, has made the cut in four of the six events he's previously played on the PGA TOUR, including two top-30 finishes at the U.S. Open.
He opened the day with three birdies on his first four holes then added an eagle on No. 9 to make the turn in 5-under 30. Langley added birdies on Nos. 10 and 16 before breaking a tie with Henley on the 18th with a 6-foot birdie conversion to take the overnight lead.
Henley, who said he was just trying to keep pace with Langley, birdied eight holes but had a bogey on the par-3 11th in his first event as a TOUR member. Henley won two of his last four events on the Web.com Tour in 2012, including the Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open at TPC Sawgrass, to secure his 2013 TOUR card.
Langley and Henley will tee off their second round with Luke Guthrie (+1) at 8:30 a.m. local/1:30 p.m. ET Friday.
Stricker, the two-time defending champion, said Illini Day should give him a boost, but admitted that that the support might also put pressure on him.
"You know, it can work both ways," he said. "If you're going well, you know, you can really ride that momentum. If you're playing poorly, you know, you feel like you're dragging everybody down with you. So it's hard. You want to play well and there's that little extra bit of pressure, but it's good to have that support."
Stricker also said Wednesday at the John Deere Classic that he will not be putting Titleist's new irons in play this week.
"I hit them and I really liked them, but I want to hit them some more at home, so probably after the British I'll give them some more time to hit," he said.