Russell Henley entered the final round tied for the lead. After the final 18 holes, the rookie from the University of Georgia was in the winner’s circle in only his third-career PGA Tour event. Henley fired 63-63-67-63 to post a tournament record 24-under-par 256 to race away from Tim Clark, who was second on 259, to win the Sony Open at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu. Charles Howell III and rookie Scott Langley finished joint third on 263 to round off the podium. With this victory, Henley receives a two-year exemption on TOUR, $1,080,000 and 500 FedExCup points.
In my preview of this tournament, I listed the rookies to watch this week in a category that was called “Excuse me sir, where’s the first tee and what’s the course record?” I didn’t think that we would be talking about records after the first full-field event of 2013, especially at Waialae, but here we are! Light to zero winds during the week enabled this course to be taken advantage of and Henley did just that. He had the lowest 36-hole total, the lowest final round by a winner and of course the tournament record for 72 holes. He credited his success this week to the season he had on the Web.com Tour in 2012. He was in plenty of pressure packed situations down the stretch, including a 2-0 record in playoffs, which enabled him to hold off Tim Clark on Sunday. Henley, a UGA graduate, won seven times in college, tying the school record set by fellow top-five finisher this week, Chris Kirk, so he’s plenty used to being in this position.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
For the second straight week, an American in his 20’s won on TOUR.
For the second straight week, the final round leader or co-leader went on to win on Sunday. That would be the EXACT OPPOSITE trend of 2012.
In the last 12 TOUR events, nine have been won by twenty-somethings.
Here’s who hit the top 10
Tim Clark: It was him or Charles Howell III for the one-and-done crowd and he didn’t disappoint with his solo second. He shouldn’t because his history at Waialae is fantastic. He has now had a runner-up finish in the last nine consecutive seasons on TOUR. He’ll probably be my one-and-done next week as he has an excellent record in the desert.
Charles Howell III: Another year, another top five finish for Charley Three Sticks. You had a good week if you bought into this horse for course. He didn’t disappoint. Again.
Scott Langley: Bruce Lietke was the only rookie winner here in 1977. Paul Stankowski was the last player in his 20’s to win here. Last year, Ted Potter, Jr. was the best rookie finisher at T13; the year before it was Chris Kirk at T30. Langley, the 2010 NCAA champ from Illinois, finished T3 in his fifth career start on TOUR.
Matt Kuchar: He hit the top 10 for the 36th time since 2009. That’s the most on TOUR. After finishing strong last week at Kapalua, Kuchar did what he normally does: makes the cut, goes low and finds his way inside the top 25. He’s the “younger” Stricker.
Brian Stuard: Hold on, gotta look him up, be right back. Ok! This is his second go-around on TOUR (2010). He had four top 10s on the Web.com Tour last year, including a solo second, which helped him finish 20th on the money list to secure his 2013 TOUR card. He also showed some chops firing 65-65 on the weekend.
Chris Kirk: Another Dawg in the top five as Kirk had his best official finish on TOUR since the RBC Canadian Open (T4) last July. His triple bogey eight on Saturday could have sunk his chances but he battled through and closed Sunday with a bogey-free 66. Those three shots would have moved into third alone but nothing wrong with T5 to start the year.
Jeff Overton: He’s recently engaged and has some new weapons in his bag (signed with Adams Golf) and it looks like he’s raring to go for 2013 with Sunday’s eighth place finish. It was just three years ago when he was sixth on the FedExCup Points list.
Harris English: The third Georgia Bulldog to hit the top 10. How these guys ever lost a golf match in college is unbelievable in itself. English is in his second year on TOUR and hits his fourth top 10 in 28 career starts. Don’t sleep on this Bulldog as he made 22 of 27 cuts in 2012.
Marc Leishman: Seeing him in the top 10 would have made me think that the wind would have been a factor this week. Nope. This is his first top 10 since his victory last June at the Travelers and only his second top 25 in his last 11 full-field events.
Dicky Pride: He started hot early in 2012 as he began the season T5, T7 and T20 in his first three starts. Is another repeat on the cards for 2013? Pride finished 2012 79th on the money list so he’ll have plenty of chances to keep his momentum rolling.
Pat Perez: He didn’t’ make any bogeys on Friday and Saturday as he climbed up the leaderboard. His 68 on Sunday was good enough to keep him in the top 10 (T9) which matched his best finish on TOUR since his T9 at the 2012 HP Byron Nelson.
“Hey, what ever happened to…”
I recap what happened to the chalk
Dustin Johnson: Went home sick. I hope this nasty flu bug doesn’t hit the TOUR. No long-term worries from me.
Keegan Bradley: He started the day 11 shots off the pace and his bogey, par, double start on Sunday didn’t allow him to move up the leaderboard.
Zach Johnson: He fired 71-68 to miss the cut by one shot. He’ll play his third tournament in a row next week at Palm Springs. Besides his win at the Sony Open, he hasn’t had much success in Hawaii over the years.
Ryan Moore: He carded 70-69 to also miss the cut by a shot. So far, his start to 2013 hasn’t been inspiring but he does have a new baby that he had to leave on the mainland. I’m guessing he’ll start turning it around once the family rejoins him.
Webb Simpson: All seven rounds that he has played in 2013 have been under par. His solid 66 on Sunday moved him to T20 for the week. He’ll be one of the favorites next week at the birdie fest in the desert.
Brendon de Jonge: The man who led the TOUR in birdies in 2012 only made 10 this week so he didn’t challenge. He finished T54.
Carl Pettersson: He finished T59 with all four rounds at par or better.
Johnson Wagner: He also fired 71-68 to miss the cut AGAIN here.
Jimmy Walker: Four rounds in the 60’s including a sharp 64 on Sunday moved him to T26. He’s working with Butch Harmon and was close to breaking through in 2012.
Coming Wednesday: Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat WEDNESDAY at NOON p.m. ET. We will be breaking down the field at the Sony Open and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter.