Lost in the swirl of conversation about how the Honda Classic blew away with the breeze for Rory McIlroy was some credit for the winner. How about a little love for Russell Henley?
He shot 72 on the final day when the wind was up and the lowest score on a terribly difficult golf course was 3-under 67. And he didn’t win coming out of the pack. He played in the final group with McIlroy, starting the day two shots behind the leader.
Henley never lost track and never lost sight of McIlroy, even with some stumbles of his own. He bogeyed Nos. 10 and 12 but got them back with a birdie on 13 and a chip-in for birdie on the 14th.
Then came disaster. He rinsed his tee shot at the par-3 15th, the start of the “Bear Trap,” and made double bogey. But he got it up and down from the greenside bunker at the 17th and hung on to make the playoff.
He was the only one of the four combatants to hit the green in two in the playoff and the only one to make birdie, which gave him the victory.
Jordan Spieth and Harris English are the two young players on the PGA Tour who are getting the most attention for their performance and potential. But Henley, who turns 25 during the week of The Masters, now has two wins, one of only four players younger than 25 who have two or more wins on Tour.
When Henley won the Sony Open in Hawaii last year for his first win on Tour, he ended his final round with five consecutive birdies. He showed the world he had enough game for the big stage. Sunday at Honda, he showed he has enough guts.