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.
Scott Gardiner moved into a fourth-place tie Saturday at Waialae. (Petersen/Getty Images)
By Ann Miller, for PGATOUR.COM
HONOLULU -- Scott Gardiner’s PGA TOUR debut has been a little slice of paradise at the Sony Open in Hawaii.
In his first TOUR start, Gardiner is four shots off the pace being set by Russell Henley and Scott Langley -- two more rookies. The week started with 23 of this year’s 30 rookies.
Gardiner sank a five-foot birdie putt on the final hole to climb into a fourth-place tie Saturday with a third-round 65 at Waialae Country Club. He hit 16 greens in regulation and a three-putt bogey was all that marred his card.
“It’s amazing what happens when expectations are not there …,” Gardiner said. “I only hit balls once in the two weeks before the tournament because we had snow at Christmas and a couple days after.
“My wife and kids aren't here because I figured I wouldn't be much company at the start of the week because I’m trying to get myself somewhat competitive. But my mom and dad are here, just happy with how it's going.”
Gardiner has been more than competitive in his first three days on TOUR. The 36-year-old Australian is the TOUR’s oldest rookie this year.
He played 195 Web.com Tour events the last eight years. He won once before graduating, thanks to a 15th-place finish on last year’s money list with $234,000.
Sunday, he can make that with a top-five finish.
“I’ve been trying to remember some of the times I’ve played well on the Web.com Tour and that’s helped me a little,” Gardiner said. “All the years on the Web.com Tour have been fantastic so this is not as unfamiliar as it might be for other rookies.”
Gardiner bolted into the top 10 Friday with a 64 fueled by a crazy last couple hours. He played the first eight holes in 1 over, then had just one par in the final 10. He eagled the ninth, and sandwiched a double-bogey between seven back-nine birdies.
Like Henley and Langley, he is getting the hang of this awfully fast.
“When I played the Web.com I had already played a few seasons in Europe, so it was a great place to be,” Gardiner said. “To come to America, I was pretty naive, I didn’t know what I was getting myself in for. But it’s Hawaii. It doesn't get any better.”
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.
By Ann Miller, for PGATOUR.COM
HONOLULU — With the wind all but a whisper at the Sony Open in Hawaii -- at least by island standards -- records are all that are flying around Waialae Country Club this week. The 20-somethings are leading the scoring assault.
Rookie Russell Henley is holding onto his lead midway through the third round after shooting successive 63s. His 14-under 126 total through Friday set a 36-hole scoring record for this tournament, which began in 1965.
Davis Love III set the mark at 128 in 1994. He shot a second-round 60 and ultimately lost to Brett Ogle by a shot.
Love’s halfway total was 16 under because it came on a par-72 Waialae layout. That was cut to par-70 when Sony took over in 1999.
His mark was matched by John Huston in 1998, Paul Azinger (2000), Brad Faxon (2001) and John Cook (2002). They all won with the exception of Cook, who came up a shot short of Jerry Kelly.
Scott Langley, the rookie now chasing Henley, was 128 this week after a first-round 62. That score also tied a record, for low opening round, first set by Scott Simpson (1991). Brian Claar shot the same score in1997.
Huston was basically responsible for changing the par. Officials wanted to toughen Waialae up after Huston, in weather so sublime he termed it “no conditions,” blitzed it with a record score of 28-under 260.
He won by seven shots over Tom Watson. Both play on the Champions Tour now, along with Faxon and Cook.
In contrast Henley and Langley are 23-year-old rookies, who shared low amateur honors at the 2010 U.S. Open (T16). Henley won twice on the Web.com Tour and finished third on the money list to get his card. Langley earned his at the Qualifying Tournament.
Henley is only the second rookie to post 126 in a TOUR event, after Mark Turnesa at the 2008 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. The TOUR record is 124, shared by Pat Perez and David Toms.
The rookies, and everybody else making putts all over Waialae’s pristine greens, will be going after the tournament record Sunday. That number is 260, set by Huston and tied by Faxon.
At Waialae this week, anything is possible.
“These greens are just beautiful greens,” Matt Kuchar said. “It’s been a joy to come over here, have some little lighter breezes, and it’s a fun golf course to play.”
Russell Henley has just one bogey through 36 holes at Waialae. (Petersen/Getty Images)
Check out these facts before the third round of the Sony Open: Russell Henley has fired 70 or better in each of his last 14 professional rounds. His worst finish in his last four starts? A tie for sixth.
The talented Georgia alum, still only 23, secured his PGA TOUR card with one of the best closing stretches in Web.com Tour history. He won the Chiquita Classic in a playoff, finished third in the Miccosukee Championship, and then won the Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open in playoff.
The victory in Jacksonville -- at TPC Sawgrass' Dye's Valley Course -- is a major indicator to his success this week in the Sony Open. Henley closed with a 65 on one of the toughest courses on the tour -- on an unforgiving track that punishes any drive hit off-line.
Shooting a pair of 63s in his PGA TOUR member debut in the Sony Open? Henley is just picking up where he left off last year.
It wasn't always this easy. This time a year ago, he was struggling so badly that he didn't know what to do. He began the year on the Web.com Tour, but was missing cuts left and right. Twice, he almost failed to even break 80.
Then, he got an assist from Webb Simpson.
Henley started playing golf with Simpson at Quail Hollow, and it was there that he hooked up with an assistant pro there named Charles Frost. The pair put in some serious work over the summer, and the results started showing.
"My off weeks I got a lot of good, quality rounds in, and after learning a little bit more about course management," Henley said. "I definitely know what didn't work, [and] I started to build some confidence."
By the time July 2012 rolled around, Henley was on track. He put together a couple of top-10s, and all but secured his card with a runner-up finish in August. With a lot of the pressure gone, Henley went on a tear that continues to the present day.
"It's pretty surreal. I remember I got my card -- and my family was there -- and it was just kind of like, 'Wow, I just got my PGA TOUR card,'" Henley said. "It's so hard. The chances are pretty -- not in your favor to get out here, and I was just like, wow, this is amazing."
Now, Henley has a shot to lock up his card for a lot longer than the 2013 season. He can become the first player since Bruce Lietzke (1977) to win the Sony Open in his first attempt. He will be playing Saturday with good friend Scott Langley -- a q-school grad who is only two shots back of him -- and two-time TOUR winner Scott Piercy. With the wind calm, Henley knows he can't let up an inch at birdie-filled Waialae.
"The sky's the limit honestly on the weekend if somebody gets hot," Henley said.