Henley busts out in rookie season
Rookies don't know their place. Last month, Russell Henley won his first start as a regular PGA Tour member with a 3-shot victory at the Sony Open in Hawaii. In April, the former Georgia star will celebrate his 24th birthday during the Masters in his maiden trip as a player to the event held just 125 miles from his hometown of Macon, Ga.
In his own words, Henley explains what he did to gain that first PGA Tour win, why he doesn't spend much time on the driving range, and how he spent his time as a playmaking high school point guard, among other things.
At Sony, I didn't put too much pressure on myself going into that week, because I knew I was playing well and I was just going to see what happened.
I played almost every day in December in Charleston [S.C.], where I live, getting ready for the season. I felt really comfortable with my swing and good around the greens. I just had a good feeling about my game.
Once I get into a pressure situation where I know that I'm up, I've been good at getting the job done. I won two tournaments on the Web.com Tour last year, so I knew I could finish a tournament.
I haven't bought anything yet with the $1 million first-place check. The only thing I've really done is go out for some nice dinners with friends in Charleston.
My high school in Macon (Ga.) had a Russell Henley day after I won in Hawaii. The students dressed up in Hawaiian shirts. I thought that was pretty funny.
I was an OK basketball player, but I'm obviously better at golf. I played point guard. I didn't score that many points. Probably the most I ever scored was 25 points in a game. I probably passed more than I should have. I tried to be a good leader. I miss it.
Spending last year on the Web.com [Tour] is probably the best thing that's ever happened to me, because I learned a lot about myself. Obviously everybody would like to go straight through out of college and make it to the PGA Tour.
But I'm actually glad I had a year to learn and get better. It was a great year out there and I wouldn't replace that with anything.
The Web.com [Tour] has some really good players. You definitely have to be prepared just like a PGA Tour event. It's the best preparation you can have for the PGA Tour.
The biggest difference between tours is that there are a lot more fans that know who I am. They want autographs and want to follow you. It's just a bigger atmosphere.
NORTHERN TRUST OPEN
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• Venue: Riviera Country Club; par-71, 7,279 yards
• Location: Pacific Palisades, Calif.
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• Dates: Thursday-Sunday
• Defending champion: Bill Haas
• Payout: 144-man field with winner earning $1,188,000 of $6.6 million purse
• Format: 72-hole stroke play, top 70 and ties make 36 hole cut
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Driving the ball in the fairway is a big key on the PGA Tour. So I definitely need to work on driving the ball better. And you can't ever get too good with your wedges and your putter. But overall, I'm just going to keep working on chipping around the greens and hitting the ball in the fairway.
I see my former teammates at Georgia out on tour -- Harris English, Brian Harman -- but I haven't really gotten any advice from them. They have all been very successful out there and it's nice to know they came from the same place and that gives me some confidence.
I got to play with another former Georgia player, Bubba Watson, in the first two rounds in Phoenix. That was the first time I had met him. He is a fun player to watch.
I will be very nervous on the first tee at the Masters, but it will be a good nervous. I have really nothing to lose my first time around.
I'm not a very big fan of talking about what I'm going to shoot. But I'm not very superstitious. I use a quarter every time to mark my ball, but I don't think it would affect me if I used something else. I use a quarter because it's big enough for everybody to see and small enough to stay out of the way.
The putter is the most important club in my bag. I'm definitely the most confident with it.
I have never been a ball beater. I like to go out and play competitively and I feel like that's always been the best part of my game. I don't know what to work on at the driving range. So I think that's kind of a waste of time.
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