Rookie Russell Henley wins PGA Tour debut in record fashion

Fitzgerald Cecilio – 4E Sports Reporter

Honolulu, HI, United States (4E Sports) – Russell Henley fired a seven-under 63 in the final round to capture the Sony Open by three strokes over Tim Clark Sunday at the Waialae Country Club, becoming the first rookie to win his PGA Tour debut in 12 years.

Henley finished the event at 24-under 256, becoming the first neophyte to win his debut in the PGA Tour since Garrett Willis did in Tucson in 2001.

He also broke by four shots the Sony Open scoring record held by Brad Faxon in 2001 and John Huston in 1998.

It was the third-lowest score for a 72-hole tournament in PGA Tour history, two shots behind Tommy Armour III in 2003 at the Valero Texas Open and a shot back of Steve Stricker’s 255 at the 2009 Bob Hope Classic

Henley also left another mark on Waialae Country Club, setting a tournament record for the low 36-hole score after his 63-63 start. He shared the 54-hole record with Langley and set another tournament mark with the lowest final round by a champion.

The rookie sealed his win with birdies on the final five holes to edge Clark by three strokes.

“That’s the most nervous I’ve ever been,” said Henley, whose victory booked him a spot at the Masters in April. “I couldn’t feel my legs or my arms. They were just numb and just moving fast and I felt like I couldn’t control them. But I’ve been in that situation before, just not quite as dramatic.”

Aside from earning $1,008,000, Henley also tied Dustin Johnson atop the FedExCup standings with 500 points.

Clark birdied seven of his last 11 holes but failed to gain ground on the rookie from Georgia.

“When you get up close and watch a guy play … if that’s how he putts all the time, whew! It’s over,” Clark said.

Clark shot a final-round 63 while Charles Howell III closed with a 66 to tie for third with rookie Scott Langley, who birdied his last two holes for a 70.

Henley was tied for the lead with Langley to start the final round but took control with a birdie on the opening hole.

Henley had a two-shot lead with seven holes to play when he calmly sank a 10-foot par putt on the 12th before pulling away with a 45-foot birdie putt on the 14th.

Then, Henley made an 18-foot birdie putt on the 17th to stay three shots ahead of Clark, who could only shake his head in amazement.

“He just never seemed to put a foot wrong, and when he did, he made those par putts,” Clark said. “That’s when you know a guy is comfortable, when he’s making those 8- to 10-footer for par. When a guy plays that well and beats you, you just have to be happy for them.”

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