Russell Henley ready for Sunday run at Wyndham Championship
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There are 14 players within five shots of Henley’s lead as he seeks fourth TOUR win
Written by Helen Ross @helen_pgatour
Russell Henley interview after Round 3 of Wyndham
GREENSBORO, N.C. – Russell Henley planned to head back to the hotel on Saturday night and help his wife entertain their two young children.
He’d probably read to them before they go to bed. Shoot, the man who owns a three-stroke lead through three rounds of the Wyndham Championship might even change a dirty diaper or two.
“They’ll wear you out,” Henley said, good-naturedly.
How’s that for putting life in perspective? And it’s just what Henley figures he needs as he contemplates Sunday’s run at what would be his fourth PGA TOUR title.
It will be a quick turnaround, with tournament officials opting to start off two tees with players in threesomes from 7-9:01 a.m. on Sunday to beat what approaching storms. And the field will face a different course at Sedgefield Country Club that absorbed heavy overnight rains.
Henley plans to be ready, though.
The lanky Georgian admits that he was a little tentative on Saturday. Nervous, even. And he never could quite get things going like he had in shooting rounds of 62 and 64 to grab the lead at the midway point of the tournament.
In fact, until Henley made a 33-footer for eagle at the 15th hole, a third-straight score in red numbers on the normally generous Donald Ross layout was hardly a sure bet. He eventually closed with a three-putt bogey for a 69 that sent him home looking to clear his mind.
“I've never had a four-shot lead, so just kind of dealing with all the thoughts that are not wanted in my head and just trying to focus on what I want to do,” Henley explained. “The first two days everything was obviously going my way and I was playing really well and scoring well, so that's not going to happen every time.
“These rounds are kind of what make and break really good tournaments, so I'm really thankful to be under par today.”
Three other players have held the lead outright after each of the first three rounds this year – Sam Burns at The Genesis Invitational, Louis Oosthuizen at the Open Championship and Harris English at the World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational.
If Henley comes out on top Sunday, though, he would be the first of the four to go on to win. He would also be the first wire-to-wire winner at what is usually a volatile Wyndham Championship since Brandt Snedeker won his second title in 2018.
Among those chasing Henley on a generally generous course that yielded a 59 to Snedeker in 2018 are Tyler McCumber, who is alone in second, and a pack of six tied at 11 under that includes the recent Olympic silver medalist who represented his wife’s homeland of Slovakia, Rory Sabbatini.
Sabbatini came to Greensboro after celebrating in Bratislava and quickly got down to business.
There is a sense of urgency this week because he’s doesn’t have his playing privileges locked up for the 2021-22 season – although he’s currently projected to move from No. 141 to 122 in the FedExCup. If he stays inside the top 125 come Sunday, he’ll keep his card and can save his career-money exemption for another rainy day.
As an added bonus, Sabbatini would be headed for Liberty National and THE NORTHERN TRUST, the first FedExCup Playoffs event.
“I do potentially have a flight reservation, but I don’t know which direction,” he said earlier in the week.
Also among those tied for third is Kevin Kisner, a fan favorite and like Henley, a former Georgia Bulldog, who has finished tied for eighth, 10th and third in three of his last four starts at Sedgefield. He would have owned second alone, too, on Saturday had it not been for bogeys on his last two holes.
The mission on Sunday is simple for the 37-year-old from Aiken, South Carolina.
“Struck it nicely all day and gave myself a ton of chances,” Kisner said. “Two three-putts. Could have been really special. I gave myself chances all day, I don't think I missed but two greens, the first and the last. Keep that up and try to get rid of those dumb bogeys.”
McCumber is also a lock to make the FedExCup Playoffs for the first time in just his second year on TOUR. He’s found some momentum at Sedgefield, which he calls a “thinker’s course,” too, after missing the cut in his last six starts.
“Golf doesn't always give you the results you want,” said McCumber, who finished second at the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship last fall. “You've got to stay in the process, and I feel like I've been doing that pretty well and getting rewarded for it through the first three rounds this week, so taking that momentum into tomorrow.”
He won’t be the only one, though.
There are 14 players within five shots of Henley’s lead, including Webb Simpson, the 2011 champ, who has finished tied for third or better in each of the last four years.
The 70 he shot on Saturday ended a streak of 18 consecutive sub-par rounds at the Wyndham and included his first triple bogey at Sedgefield in 846 holes. He’s in a group of six tied at 10 under – that includes former major champions Adam Scott and Justin Rose -- after chipping in for par on the final hole.
“It was a perfect ending to a very weird day, very frustrating day,” said Simpson, who was headed to the range to work out a recurring miss-hit to the left. “I had the position to shoot 4, 5 under again and just didn't get it done.”
Don’t be surprised to see someone go even lower than that on Sunday as they race to the finish line.