Rookie Henley wins by three shots at Waialae


American Russell Henley, remarkably unflappable for a PGA Tour rookie, became the youngest champion at the Sony Open in Hawaii when he won his maiden title on the U.S. circuit in record style by three shots on Sunday.
Aged just 23, the fresh-faced Tour graduate displayed ice-cool nerves as he stormed home with five consecutive birdies to fire a seven-under-par 63 on the tree-lined layout at Waialae Country Club. Co-leader overnight with fellow rookie and good friend Scott Langley, Henley mixed eight birdies with a lone bogey to post a record 24-under total of 256 in the PGA Tour’s first full-field event of the season.
When he rolled in an eight-footer to birdie the par-five last, one of several stunning clutch putts he made on the day, he gave a roundhouse sweep with his right arm in celebration.
“I don’t really even know what just happened,” a smiling Henley told Golf Channel after becoming the event’s youngest winner, eclipsing compatriot Ben Crenshaw who was aged 24 when he triumphed in 1996. “This is the most nervous I have ever been and that’s the hardest thing I have ever done. I was just trying to stick to my routine and stay committed and stay in the present. I had to battle Tim (Clark) and I am just kind of speechless right now.”
With his spectacular triumph, Henley earned an invitation to the Masters and became the first rookie to win on his debut as a PGA Tour member since compatriot Garrett Willis at the 2001 Tucson Open. “It’s been my goal to make it to the Masters my whole life,” said Henley, who won twice last year on the PGA Tour’s feeder circuit and shared low amateur honours with Langley when they tied for 16th at the 2010 U.S. Open.
South African Tim Clark, bidding for his second title on the circuit, signed off with birdies on the last four holes for a matching 63 to secure second place.
First-round leader Langley faded with three bogeys on the back nine, carding a 70 to finish in a tie for third at 17 under with fellow American Charles Howell III (66).
Henley began another warm day of light breezes at Waialae tied at the top with playing partner Langley and he benefited from a two-shot swing at the par-four first to move two strokes clear.