What they said: Russell HenleyJanuary 14, 2013
DAVE SENKO: Russell, congratulations on your first PGA TOUR victory, 24 under 256, which is the third lowest numerical 72‑hole total in TOUR history, behind Tommy Armour, Steve Stricker and Mark Calcavecchia. Maybe just share your thoughts on your day today.
RUSSELL HENLEY: Well, that was‑‑ I said before, that's the most nervous I've ever been. I couldn't feel my legs or my arms. They were just numb and just moving fast and I felt like I couldn't control them. But I've been in that situation before, just not quite as dramatic. I just tried to stay in the present. I never‑‑ Todd kept telling me it's not‑‑ get ready for a dog fight because Tim is going to come charging, and I knew he was. So I just tried to keep pretending I was 2‑down or 3‑down and losing and tried to keep on pressing and being aggressive and hitting good shots. I didn't hit all good shots, but I made some putts, and it was quite a feeling making that one on 18.
Q. You had seven one‑putts on the back nine today.
RUSSELL HENLEY: Yeah, that's pretty good. Some of the best I've ever done, putting I've done under pressure for sure, by far, and I was adding up my scorecard, and I was like, oh, wait, I shot 29 on the back. I didn't even know I did. It was just trying to keep my cool. It was really difficult out there.
RUSSELL HENLEY: I'm pretty speechless. I don't know. I was trying not to think about Augusta out there because I just‑‑ I kept telling myself this is a long year, you're going to play this game for a long time, and be patient, and it doesn't have to happen now. Just everything I could to psych myself out of thinking about winning. It worked.
Q. The most unlikely putt was probably 14, but I wonder if you could talk about the par putt you made on 12 and then what followed.
RUSSELL HENLEY: Well, I got two really good breaks today. First good break was on 6, and the ball was way below my feet in the rough. I was next to the cart path and I tried to punch under this tree, flew it a little too high, and I caught the bottom limb, still ran up on the green, I made a 15‑footer for par. That was a really good break, and I felt like I stole at least one there.
12, I hooked a 3‑wood and was blocked out, had to take relief from the path, and it flew a little bit higher than I wanted, and I think it might have hit a leaf or a bottom branch on the way out. So that was another time where I got a good break. So those two holes I felt like I stole at least one.
Q. Obviously now that we know that you won, you were ready to win. But when you came here at the beginning of the week, did you think about winning?
RUSSELL HENLEY: I remember we played a couple practice rounds, and I think I was playing on Tuesday, and I was hitting the ball really well. It was really windy‑‑ well, not really windy, it was a lot more windy than it is now. I remember saying to Todd walking up 9, I don't care what happens this week or next week, I feel like I'm playing great right now, and I think something good is going to happen soon. I feel like I picked up right where I left off with the Web.com season and kind of carried over my confidence, and here I am.
Tim was pushing me pretty hard out there. I wish he wouldn't have done that. That was stressing me out.
Q. I was going to ask you about having that Web.com experience. You won two Playoffs last year. Scott didn't play the Web.com. I'm wondering if maybe there was some innate advantage in that when you got to today, even though he was with you for 54 holes.
RUSSELL HENLEY: It's everything but it's nothing. For me it's everything. Not everybody needs the experience before they get out here, but for me it's probably the best thing for my golf game I've ever had to do, learn to travel, learn what worked for me, learn how many practice rounds I need, depending on the course, learn how much sleep I need to get. I get used to the flow of a tournament, early‑late, late‑early, all those things are pretty big, and I learned at the very start, about the first 13, what didn't work. I played pretty awful in my opinion. I think I made like 15 grand, and the last 10 or 12 was huge for me.
So the start of the year was‑‑ the start of last year was some of the worst golf I've played in a while, but it was probably some of the best things that happened to me. I definitely took a lot from that. I don't know, it's all I got. You could just skip the Web.com TOUR, but for me that's probably the biggest thing that's ever helped me.
Q. Have you ever had an inspired streak of putting like this for four days?
RUSSELL HENLEY: I shot 22‑under in Charlotte and felt like I putted really, really well there. Those greens are really true and some of the best I've putted on, at Longview Country Club. I felt like that week was really, really good putting. I've been focusing really hard on my putting lately in the off‑season. I've been trying to hit at least a couple hundred putts a day, doing drills and just putting against myself trying to shoot under par on a nine‑hole putting contest against myself. There's not always somebody to putt with. I like to putt against somebody when I practice.
But I have been practicing my putting a lot and putting a lot of thought and effort into it, and it paid off.
Q. You are in the Masters, in the PGA, you're exempt for the next two years. You're No.50 in the world. Likely you'll be at the Match Play and Doral. Can you kind of get your hands around that?
RUSSELL HENLEY: No: If you look at my rankings at the start of last year, that's another thing. I know I keep bringing that up, but I think I was like 630, and I think I remember looking at it and thinking, wow, I was 630, and I remember when I was an am I was like 300. I was like, how do you get that much worse when you turn pro.
And then I made it back up. I remember looking at it and I was under 200. I'm like, that's pretty cool, out of all the people in the world, my ranking is under 200. That's pretty sweet. I can't really comprehend what 50 means right now. But it's a pretty cool feeling.
Q. Can you comprehend all the things that came with winning today?
RUSSELL HENLEY: No. Growing up, going to the Masters every year I could‑‑ I grew up with these two twins, Matthews and Madison Barnett, and their dad would always take us to the Masters every year. We'd stop at Krispy Kreme, where I think Phil had stopped before, and they had two tickets, and I would either go with Matthews or Madison, we grew up playing golf together, and they would drop us off, and me and Madison or Matthews would get to go in and walk the course. I remember we would walk up to the ropes and we'd touch the grass with our hands, and we'd just‑‑ I remember seeing these rolling hills of green and seeing the guys hit the shots and just being so amazed at the whole experience, the smell, the environment of it, and being so close to home, it was just the biggest deal for me just to get to go. That's why I think it was really hard for me to block that out because that's something‑‑ I probably think about the Masters a few times a day.
Q. You've played there, though, right?
RUSSELL HENLEY: I played there a couple times in college, so it's quite an experience for me. It means a lot.
Q. If you can answer this as honestly as possible, when do you allow yourself to think about winning, at what point today?
RUSSELL HENLEY: Walking down 18‑‑ when Todd told me to hit a 3‑wood instead of a driver on 18, we had talked about it, I figured I was in pretty good shape. But I didn't let myself think about it.
When I got onto the green and I had about a 10‑footer, Todd walked up to me, and I said, "What's the deal," and he said, "You're"‑‑ I knew I was probably three shots up. I hadn't looked at a leaderboard, and he said, "three shots up." He said, "When you make this, come over and give me a hug, all right?" I'll tell you what I said to him: I said, "Shut up. We're not done playing golf yet." That was just kind of‑‑ I wouldn't say discipline, but how determined I was to stay in the present and not let up and keep attacking until I got done. I don't remember the rest.
Q. You shot 256. How did you do that?
RUSSELL HENLEY: Playing to my strengths, trying not to do anything that I'm not capable of doing. I mean, I know Tiger likes to work the ball right to left, left to right, and I know a lot of guys like to curve it, and I've never done that. I just stick to what I know how to do. However it feels on the range, I go play with it. I stick to the same putting routine that I've always had. I just try to do what I do. What I do best is not put myself in my situation where I have to do something funky, and I think that definitely helps.
Q. As a young golfer, you probably just inspired millions of young people in Hawai'i, a lot of the young golfers and the young children. What kind of impact do you hope to leave on all these people, especially the young generation that just watched you reach a momentous goal?
RUSSELL HENLEY: Just that. I think that's more important to me than getting in the Masters or being ranked whatever in the world. Making a difference I think is huge for me. That means a lot to hear that I'm making an impact because I think that's the most fun thing I remember about playing at Pebble Beach in the U.S. Open when I was an am, and Congressional. People got to see me and I got to interact with them, and they got to see that this is fun, this is a game, and hopefully I changed the way some people look at the game. If I could keep doing that, that would mean a lot to me.
Q. What was the most critical point out there today?
RUSSELL HENLEY: Let me think here. Most critical point, probably my second shot on 16. I hooked a hybrid. I really‑‑ that swing from that tee is the most nervous I have ever been in my life. I could not control, I felt like, my legs or my arms, and I just hit it, and it was into the sun, I couldn't see it. I know it was going left. For that ball to stay inbounds, I don't know where OB was, but for me to have a shot towards the green was probably the best break I've ever had. Certainly the shot I hit in was not an easy shot. I hit a pitching wedge from 160. I had to go over a tree that was only 50 yards away that's about 60 feet high. So that's one of the best shots I've ever hit. I think to get that ball on the green and to get even a chance at birdie was definitely the biggest thing in my opinion.
Q. You talked about your legs being‑‑ you couldn't feel your legs. When was it that you could actually feel your legs again?
RUSSELL HENLEY: I'd say when I was‑‑ walked out of the scoring tent. I mean, everything that happened was just happening so fast, everybody rushes over and starts talking to you. I still feel like I have a lot of adrenaline pumping through me right now. Yeah, a little while after I got done.
Q. You talked about the period of time where you didn't play well at the beginning of the year. There was a period of time, though, when you said you started playing better. There was also the time when Todd got on the bag. Does that connect up to the two?
RUSSELL HENLEY: Sure. Todd is a great player, too, and I got hooked up with him through some friends in Macon who go out and play Pebble Beach every year. He's been caddying at Pebble and Spyglass and Spanish since like 91, and he can play, and he‑‑ on the mental side of it, the course management of it, it was big to have somebody like that who I feel like I can trust and just kind of listen. I'll just let him coach me around the course, and that definitely adds a lot to my confidence.
Q. What's his name?
RUSSELL HENLEY: Todd Gjesvold.
Q. Do you feel like you're a top 50 player in the world because at least World Ranking wise you're ahead of Geoff Ogilvy and Padraig Harrington and Vijay Singh?
RUSSELL HENLEY: Rankings are rankings. Padraig Harrington has won three majors. I've won one time on the PGA TOUR. He's been playing the game for a long time and playing at a very high level. Experience wise, all that, that's huge in this game, and that's one reason I won today was because of knowing myself.
You know, I don't know how to respond to the rankings, but in terms of being used to the environment and more of a complete‑‑ I don't want to say complete player, but more used to the environment, I'd say they definitely have the edge on me because they've been doing is so much longer. Maybe how I'm playing right now might be better than their game on a course or two or a couple‑‑ I don't know how to answer that about the rankings, but I do think they have a lot more experience than I do.
Q. As a young kid can you talk about the top three things that attracted you to the game, and if they were out there today or maybe another dimension that was out there today for you?
RUSSELL HENLEY: Top three things? I think I played every sport growing up, and then finally a buddy of mine‑‑ not finally. I was like 8. He took me out to play, and he was better than I was, and I played with their dad, and they hit the ball better than me, they thought better than me. I remember thinking I don't know what I'm supposed to be‑‑ I just kind of copied everything they did. I realized how difficult it was, and I think that really attracted me to it.
I also loved‑‑ I remember watching Payne Stewart when I first got in the game, me and my buddies always wore the hat he wore, and I think a lot of things, watching Tiger, seeing how exciting it was and stuff like that just all attracted me. And I think the main thing was just how hard it was.
Q. Anything else out there today that you learned about the game or about yourself, relationship to the game?
RUSSELL HENLEY: I think the more I play, mentally I know‑‑ the more pressure you put on yourself the more you realize how your mind works and what you really think about because your true instincts kind of come out. Basically everything I thought about on the range and working on my swing just kind of went away. I couldn't do it anymore. It didn't work. So I had to re‑find, redo everything, and the feelings I had in my swing because they were all so different than what I'm used to when there's no pressure on me. That's kind of one of the things. How my body reacts physically is a big thing that I learned a lot more about myself today for sure.
Q. You mentioned the Web.com TOUR and how that helped you. Logistically how does that translate into the coming weeks and your preparations and trying to keep this momentum going?
RUSSELL HENLEY: You know, the one thing I did learn, I remember on the Web.com is at the start of the year I remember I was in Colombia, Bogota, and I remember waking up that morning last year thinking, all right, this is it, this is it, I'm going to the Tour, and I'm playing‑‑ I was so amped up about it, and it was such a long year. I think about all the planes and rental cars like every week, hey, get the rental car, the whole process, and there's so much golf, there's so much time, and I think that's the one thing that I've learned is there's so much golf to be played, and you just have to be so patient. That's the one thing I'll take from this year is just because I won now doesn't really mean anything going forward. I get a lot of confidence and learn about myself, but I've still got to tee it up every week, and there's tons of golf to play.
Q. At what point in golf did you realize you were a good putter?
RUSSELL HENLEY: Good putter? You know, I think as I got older in high school, the more and more I played, the more high school events I played, I remember I would just keep hearing from people, man, he's good at putting. The more I heard that, the more it kind of got locked in my mind. Once you get it locked in your mind, you feel like it's your strength and it's all you've heard, I think that's what you start thinking.
Q. Will this change any of your West Coast plans?
RUSSELL HENLEY: I know I was already planning on taking one off. I don't know which one yet. Got to reevaluate after the Humana. We'll just have to see. I'm definitely going to take one off. I don't want to play six in a row. I'll be dead tired.
Q. Since the Sony Open is about charity, do you know who you're going to donate to?
RUSSELL HENLEY: I don't. I need to see a list and‑‑
Q. Any idea, children or‑‑
RUSSELL HENLEY: Oh, yeah, sure, probably children. I think that would be probably the number one thing I would go after is find the best one for children for sure.
RUSSELL HENLEY: I'm just trying to follow those guys out here. They're a lot of the reason that I'm out here, just watching them play, being like, man, I really want to be out there with those guys. I'm just happy that there's a lot of Georgia guys playing well. Erik Compton is out here and obviously Bubba is playing pretty well. Aaron Murray is coming back to play one more year, and I'm excited about that. What a good guy.