Its Finally Go Time for Henley

By May 18, 2005, 4:00 pm
04 Henrico County OpenRICHMOND, Va. -- As you look down the line of players on the range practicing for this week's Henrico County Open at the Dominion Club just outside Richmond, Va., nothing really stands out.
Players bang ball after ball, dressed in their good-enough-for-church golf attire, while their caddies stand quietly behind them. Nothing out of the ordinary.
Until you see a shock of bleach blonde hair down toward the far end of the range.
Kip Henley
Big Break II winner Kip Henley talks with his caddie on the eve of playing in the first of his Nationwide Tour exemptions.
It's Kip Henley, the winner of The Golf Channel's 'Big Break II' series. He, too, is hitting balls, dressed in his own snappy golf attire, and just as assuredly as the rest of the players, his caddie is watching and waiting.
This is where ordinary gets tossed out the golf cart.
For Henley, as he stands alongside these past and future PGA Tour players, it feels as if his name is actually Charlie and he is the lucky holder of the ticket that gives him admittance to the Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory that is the Nationwide Tour.
About as down to earth as you can get, and equally self-effacing, Henley is set to embark on his once-in-a-lifetime adventure. An adventure that he heads into with his true personality intact ' modestly and with an air of cautious optimism. And, of course, quick with a comment in which he is usually the butt of his own joke.
Asked about which aspect of his game he is feeling good about heading into Thursdays opening round, Henley replies, I kind of dread every bit of it if I think about it.
But dont be totally fooled by his apparent anguish, as deep down he honestly feels he has the type of game that can match up to his new found brethren.
Obviously the odds are against me, ya know, with me coming into their world, said Henley on the range Wednesday afternoon. But Id like to play good for four days. Maybe even great for one or two of those days. And if I do, then I figure I can get into the top-25.
Henley, who taped the show last summer, had to wait until the final show was aired late in the fall to tell family and friends that he had won. He said that the keeping quiet about his 'Big Break II' victory may have been the most nerve-racking element to this whole process, including his debut this week.
Four and a half months I had to be quiet about it. You could talk about it, but you couldnt give away any of the results. You had to be really, really careful, think before you speak, recalled the 34-year-old married father of two, on the pressures to keep a lid on his windfall. And I was surprised about how many of the guys (PGA Tour and Nationwide Tour players) watched the show.
And then theres Paul Azinger, who watched the show a lot and he would try to get me to spill the beans all the time, trying to get me to tell him (who had won). No one in my family ever knew anything - except for my wife - not my kids or anybody.
And he is certainly happy, finally, to get a chance to show what type of golf he is capable of, especially with all the added attention surrounding him. He says its time to finally tee it up.
Kip Henley
Kip Henley talks with an official after hitting balls on the practice range.
It just takes me one or two good shots under some pressure to get me a little confidence and I can start rolling it no doubt, said Henley on his prospects this week. My game is, I dont know, ego driven or what, but if I hit a couple of good shots and start to feel good about myself, I can go and shoot just as low as any of these guys.
The thing I can do is shoot low numbers. Im comfortable shooting low scores where as some guys might get nervous. I dont do it enough obviously, but I am comfortable shooting some really low numbers.
When told of last year's tour-record winning score of 30 under at this event, Henley gave one of his typical, unpretentious comebacks.
If its going to take 30 under, then something is going to have to happen tonight in my sleep.
Henley, who outlasted nine other competitors in the second installment of The Golf Channels popular reality series, has earned exemptions to play in four Nationwide Tour events: this weeks Henrico County Open (Richmond, Va.), the LaSalle Bank Open (Chicago, Ill.), the Lake Erie Charity Classic (Erie, Pa.) and the National Mining Association Pete Dye Classic (Bridgeport, W. Va.). He has also received sponsors exemptions into the Chattanooga Classic (Chattanooga, Tenn.) and the Knoxville Open (Knoxville, Tenn.).
On top of that, he also has qualified for next weeks FedEx St. Jude Classic in his home state of Tennessee.
Everybody has been more than kind, they've all been really good about it, said Henley on his reception from the players, caddies and the numerous volunteers milling about the course. Im really looking forward to it.
The Golf Channel will begin coverage from The Dominion Club in Richmond, Va., Thursday at 1:30 p.m. (ET), running through Sunday.
Related links:
  • Kip Henley's Scorecard
  • TGC Airtimes
  • Big Break II Home
  • Kip's Big Break Diary
  • Full Coverage - Henrico County Open
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    DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

    By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

    ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

    The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

    ''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

    In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

    ''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

    The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

    ''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

    The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.

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    Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 2:52 pm

    Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.

    Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:

    As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.

    Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.

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    Hot Seat: Rory jumps into the fire early

    By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 2:11 pm

    The world’s top tours head to desert regions this week, perfect locales for The Hot Seat, the gauge upon which we measure the level of heat the game’s top personalities are facing ...

    Sahara sizzle: Rory McIlroy

    McIlroy won’t have to look far to see how his form measures up to world No. 1 Dustin Johnson at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    McIlroy will make his 2018 debut with Johnson in his face, literally.

    McIlroy will be grouped with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood in the first two rounds.

    Players like to downplay pairings early in a tournament, but it’s hard to believe McIlroy and Johnson won’t be trying to send each other messages in this European Tour event in the United Arab Emirates. That’s the alpha-dog nature of world-class players looking to protect their turf, or in the case of McIlroy, take back his turf.

    “When you are at the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Trevor Immelman said about pairings during Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge last month.

    And that was an offseason event.

    “They want to show this guy, ‘This is what I got,’” Immelman said.

    As early season matchups go, Abu Dhabi is a heavyweight pairing that ought to be fun.

    So there will be no easing into the new year for McIlroy after taking off the last three months to regroup from the stubborn rib injury that plagued him last season. He is coming off a winless year, and he will be doing so alongside a guy who just won the first PGA Tour event of 2018 in an eight-shot rout. Johnson’s victory in Hawaii two weeks ago was his fifth since McIlroy last won.

    “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place, and that was because of where I was physically,” McIlroy said of 2017. “I feel prepared now. I feel ready, and I feel ready to challenge. I feel really good about where I’m at with my health. I’ve put all that behind me, which has been great.”

    Sonoran Smolder: Phil Mickelson

    Mickelson will turn 48 this summer.

    His world ranking is sliding, down to No. 43 now, which is the lowest he has ranked in 24 years.

    It’s been more than four years since he last won, making him 0 for his last 92 starts.

    There’s motivation in all of that for Mickelson. He makes his 2018 debut at the CareerBuilder Challenge in the Palm Springs area this week talking like a man on a renewed mission.

    There’s a Ryder Cup team to make this season, which would be his 12th straight, and there’s a career Grand Slam to claim, with the U.S. Open returning to Shinnecock Hills, where Mickelson finished second in ’04.

    While Mickelson may not feel old, there are so many young stars standing in his way that it’s hard not to be constantly reminded that time isn’t on his side in these events anymore.

    There has only been one player in the history of the game to win a major championship who was older than Mickelson is right now. Julius Boros won the PGA Championship when he was 48 back in 1968.

    Campaign fever: Jordan Spieth

    Spieth’s respect in the game’s ranks extends outside the ropes.

    He was just selected to run for the PGA Tour Player Advisory Council’s chairman position. He is facing Billy Hurley III in an election to see who will succeed Davis Love III on the Tour’s Policy Board next year.

    Spieth, just 24, has already made Time Magazine’s list of the “100 Most Influential People.” He made that back in 2016, with the magazine writing that “he exemplifies everything that’s great about sports.” Sounds like a campaign slogan.

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    CareerBuilder Challenge: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 1:10 pm

    The PGA Tour shifts from Hawaii to Southern California for the second full-field event of the year. Here are the key stats and information for the CareerBuilder Challenge. Click here for full-field tee times.

    How to watch (all rounds on Golf Channel):

    Thursday, Rd. 1: 3-7PM ET; live stream:

    Friday, Rd. 2: 3-7PM ET; live stream:

    Saturday, Rd. 3: 3-7PM ET; live stream:

    Sunday, Rd. 4: 3-7PM ET; live stream:

    Purse: $5.9 million ($1,062,000 to winner)

    Courses: PGA West, Stadium Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,113); PGA West, Nicklaus Tournament Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,159); La Quinta Country Club, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,060) NOTE: All three courses will be used for the first three rounds but only the Stadium Course will be used for the final round.

    Defending champion: Hudson Swafford (-20) - defeated Adam Hadwin by one stroke to earn his first PGA Tour win.

    Notables in the field

    Phil Mickelson

    * This is his first start of 2018. It's the fourth consecutive year he has made this event the first one on his yearly calendar.

    * For the second year in a row he will serve as the tournament's official ambassador.

    * He has won this event twice - in 2002 and 2004.

    * This will be his 97th worldwide start since his most recent win, The Open in 2013.

    Jon Rahm

    * Ranked No. 3 in the world, he finished runner-up in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

    * In 37 worldwide starts as a pro, he has 14 top-5 finishes.

    * Last year he finished T-34 in this event.

    Adam Hadwin

    * Last year in the third round, he shot 59 at La Quinta Country Club. It was the ninth - and still most recent - sub-60 round on Tour.

    * In his only start of 2018, the Canadian finished 32nd in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

    Brian Harman

    * Only player on the PGA Tour with five top-10 finishes this season.

    * Ranks fifth in greens in regulation this season.

    * Finished third in the Sentry Tournament of Champions and T-4 in the Sony Open in Hawaii.

    Brandt Snedeker

    * Making only his third worldwide start since last June at the Travelers Championship. He has been recovering from a chest injury.

    * This is his first start since he withdrew from the Indonesian Masters in December because of heat exhaustion.

    * Hasn't played in this event since missing the cut in 2015.

    Patrick Reed

    * Earned his first career victory in this event in 2014, shooting three consecutive rounds of 63.

    * This is his first start of 2018.

    * Last season finished seventh in strokes gained: putting, the best ranking of his career.

    (Stats provided by the Golf Channel editorial research unit.)