HENLEY'S BOATLOAD OF BIRDIES
Rookie Russell Henley won with five concutive birdies on the last five holes to close out in style and win the first full field PGA event of the year.
It certainly would have been interesting to see the discussion had Tim Clark won this event with his anchored long-putter. A long putter is bound to be in the hands of a tournament winner at some point this year.
Henley shot a 29 on the back nine and birdied 7 of his last ten holes! His scorecard looked like this for his win.
Pretty good considering Henley's longest birdie stretch last year on the Web.com Tour was three consecutive holes.
Even more impressive was that he was the third round leader. This is not a scorecard from a guy in the pack who didn't realize he could actually win. This is the card of a rookie in his first event as a PGA Tour member in the final group. I don't recall scoring down the stretch like this that since watching the mini-putt championships they used to show on TV in the 90's. Thank goodness for YouTube and ESPN Classic.
Here's betting if someone had asked you to name a rookie named Russell who was going to come up clutch at the end of the match Sunday, you'd have guessed Wilson. He played a great game but, alas, Russell Wilson left too much time on the clock.
It is also notable that rookies have not historically won or contended at this event. This is a list of champions and runners-up for the 15 prior Sony Opens:
Henley's performance may be relective of younger and even more fearless players joining the Tour which should make things exciting for the year. Henly was born in 1989. Perhaps this is the age range in which Tiger has had the most influence.
Henley would have hit high school around 2003 when Tiger was finishing off a run of seven Majors in three years (1999 PGA to 2002 US Open). He would then be in his even more formative years of high school or early college while Tiger was on his second run of Majors winning five in a three year span (2005 Masters to 2007 PGA). It is safe to say these guys have seen and tried to emulate agression and confidence on the course. Chris Kirk (T5 at Sony) and Harris English (T9 at Sony) were also born in 1989. Also notable is that Rickie Fowler was born December 1988. This may be another example of Tiger's influence on younger golfers.
Oh yeah, Rory McIlroy was born in 1989.
WHAT A QUARTER $BILLION CAN BUY
Rory officially signed with Nike for an estimate $200-$250 million over 10 years. We don't suspect a big impact or fear a drop in his game. Rory himself said last November:
I think all the manufacturers make great equipment nowadays and it's all very similar – a lot of them get their clubs made at the same factories. I don't think it will make any difference.
Umm, that may not be the new tag-line for Nike Golf.
Well, that $20-$25 million per year should also come with some PR coaching.