Henley hoping to ride momentum off Honda win
DORAL, Florida (AP) — Honda Classic winner Russell Henley can only hope the next 14 months are better than the 14 months that followed his first PGA Tour victory.
A quick, decisive player with a smooth putting stroke, Henley won his debut as a PGA Tour member in January 2013. It earned him automatic exemptions into the Masters, PGA Championship and four World Golf Championships. His FedEx Cup points turned out to be enough for a spot in the British Open, and the ranking points got him into the U.S. Open.
It proved to be a bit much.
“It was a lot to deal with after I won,” Henley said. “I played in the Masters, played in all the majors, played in all the WGCs, and I don’t know that I was really prepared to do all that mentally.”
Over the next 32 tournaments, Henley missed the cut 11 times and had only two top 10s: a tie for sixth at Hilton Head and the Memorial, neither time in serious contention over the final hour.
His playoff win at PGA National landed him at Doral this week. He’s eligible for the Masters, PGA Championship and two more WGCs (Firestone and Shanghai).
“I think this year, I’m more excited to keep playing golf and keep getting better, and I feel like I’ve got a little bit better direction that I’m going in right now,” Henley said. “I feel like I know what is going to make me better. A full year on tour will teach you a lot about who you are and what you need to do with your game — what works, what doesn’t work. I think a year of experience is huge for me.
“Golf is so hard that nobody knows for sure if they are going to keep anything going,” he said. “I know I can control my work ethic and my attitude, and hopefully I can keep those consistent.”
TIGER’S FOUNDATION: The next step for Tiger Woods’ summer event in the Washington, D.C., area is to find a rotation of courses.
Congressional Country Club members are mulling a proposal to host the tournament in 2016, 2018 and 2020 after the contract expires this year. Tiger Woods Foundation officials already have been considering locations for the alternate years.
One option is TPC Potomac Farms at Avenel, which has been redesigned and is a strong golf course. Woods is not a huge fan of TPCs — six of his 78 PGA Tour wins were on TPC courses — though he would do well to give this a closer look. Another course being mentioned is RTJ, which has staged the Presidents Cup four times.
Another possibility is Aronimink outside Philadelphia, which hosted the AT&T National to huge crowds in 2010 and 2011 when Congressional was preparing for a U.S. Open. Aronimink was trying to land a PGA Championship, but that won’t happen over the next six years.
WEST COAST WRAPAROUND: For all the fretting over how the wraparound season would affect the West Coast Swing or the European Tour, one measurement from the world ranking showed nothing at all.
The eight events — from Kapalua to the Match Play Championship — offered a total of 386 world ranking points to the winners this year. In 2013, those same eight events offered 386 points to the winners. The overall strength-of-field showed a slight difference — an average of 354.6 points in 2013 compared with 351.1 for this year.
Kapalua, Palm Springs, Riviera and Match Play were stronger in 2013. Honolulu, Torrey Pines, Phoenix and Pebble Beach were stronger this year.
In the end, it appears to be a wash.
Perception is everything.
Tiger Woods skipped the Match Play. Adam Scott, who happens to be No. 2 this year, skipped Riviera and Match Play (mostly because he was eligible for Kapalua and then stayed on for the Sony Open). Phil Mickelson had to miss Riviera because his daughter had spring break.
VICTOR’S SHOTS: The shots Victor Dubuisson played out of the desert in extra holes in the final of the Match Play Championship won’t soon be forgotten. But after the Frenchman watched replays of his 23-hole loss to Jason Day two weeks ago, that’s not what pleased him the most.
On those two shots, there was a high degree of luck involved. On the first shot, from the base of a cactus, it was a case of hit and hope. More satisfying was being 2 down with two holes to play, hitting from a fairway bunker on the 17th to 15 feet for birdie, and then getting up-and-down from a bunker on the 18th green to force overtime.
“Those two shots from the desert — one from the desert and one from the rocks — it was an incredible shot, but it was not 100 percent in my control,” Dubuisson said. “This shot on 17 and the bunker shot on 18, they were the shots I will more remember.”
PIERCY OUT: Scott Piercy, who has been playing with an injured right arm for nearly a year, finally decided to do something about it.
Piercy, who lost in 18 holes to Justin Rose in the first round of the Match Play Championship, was diagnosed with a flexor tear in his right arm and had surgery. He is expected to be out for three to four months.
“I’ve never felt such pain in my life,” Piercy said after the loss to Rose.
Piercy had two cortisone injections last year to keep playing. He tied for fifth in the PGA Championship. He fell out of the top 50 late last year and was not eligible for the Masters next month.
OLYMPIC UNIFORM: USA Golf Federation, the governing body for golf in the Olympics, said adidas Golf will provide uniforms for golfers, coaches and the staff at Rio.
Golf returns to the Olympics in 2016.
Andy Levinson, the executive director of USA Golf, said the adidas logo will not be visible on the uniform, which should come as good news to Tiger Woods if he is eligible and chooses to play in the ’16 Olympics. Woods has been a Nike client his entire career.
Along with outfitting the men’s and women’s American teams, adidas Golf will have a line of USA Golf-branded apparel that will be introduced late this year.
“We are elated that the game’s best players will showcase their talents in our apparel on the world’s greatest stage,” adidas Golf president Ben Sharpe said.
DIVOTS: Nick Watney is taking the next three weeks off after Doral. His wife, Amber, is to have their first child next week in Austin, Texas. It’s a girl. The name? “We’re still negotiating that one,” he said. ... The personal golf clubs belonging to Babe Didrikson Zaharias were sold last week for $31,250 by Nate D. Sanders Auctions of Los Angeles. Zaharias, voted the AP female athlete of the 20th century, used MacGregor Tommy Armour clubs in winning the Tam O’shanter All-American tournament four times before eventually signing an endorsement deal to use Wilson clubs in competition. ... Stephen Ames has been elected to the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Ames, who won The Players Championship in 2006 among four PGA Tour victories, will be the 74th member. ... Ten of the 69 players in the field at Doral are not yet eligible for the Masters.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Steve Stricker has been around long enough to have played at Doral under five different names: Doral-Ryder Open, Genuity Championship, Ford Championship at Doral, CA Championship, and Cadillac Championship.
FINAL WORD: “You guys have been blessed by seeing Tiger Woods win for so many years, and being No. 1 for I think 12 years now, that people in general think it’s easy to win. It’s hard.” — Jason Day, No. 4 in the world with two victories.