Henley survives PGA National for second Tour win

By Randall MellMarch 3, 2014, 1:26 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Finally, mercifully, Russell Henley ended the calamity.

When he rolled in a 3-foot putt for birdie on the first sudden-death playoff hole Sunday, it didn’t feel as if he won the Honda Classic so much as he survived it.

They didn’t need caddies coming down the stretch here at PGA National.

They needed EMTs, somebody trained to perform game-saving Heimlich maneuvers.

Chances to win kept sticking in players’ throats.

Rory McIlroy, Russell Knox, Ryan Palmer and even Henley all coughed up chances to win on a back-nine fraught with nervy misfired shots.

Henley ultimately won the four-man playoff because he misfired the least. He won because he made the fewest mistakes coming home and because he hit the best shots in the playoff.

“It doesn’t feel real,” Henley said after claiming his second PGA Tour title.

McIlroy was so disenchanted with his back-nine effort, he said winning wouldn’t have felt right.

“I didn’t play well enough at all to deserve to win this tournament,” McIlroy said.

The PGA Tour once marketed itself on the saying “These guys are good.” It didn’t look that way for the longest time on the back nine at PGA National. It looked like “These guys can really shake in their boots.”

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Video: Hear from dark-horse winner Russell Henley

Really, mostly, it was a reminder just how hard it is to win a PGA Tour event, especially on a golf course that punishes mistakes so severely.

“It’s a tough course, especially when you’re in the thick of things,” McIlroy said. “It’s hard to make birdies coming down the stretch there.”

Henley, 24, started the day two shots behind McIlroy and won with a 2-over-par 72. He won shaking off a cold start to the new year missing three of his last four cuts.

Henley won with an inauspicious start to the Bear Trap, the 15th, 16th and 17th holes. There’s a large statue of a bear there in honor of “The Golden Bear,” Jack Nicklaus, who designed the trio of holes. The inscription at Bear Trap entry reads: “It should be won or lost right here.”

Henley must not have read it. He rinsed his tee shot at the 15th, pushing a 6-iron into the water and making double bogey. He was playing alongside McIlroy and fell two shots behind him there.

“The swing on 15, I didn’t really see coming,” Henley said. “I looked up, and it was kind of fading, and I was a little bit shocked by that.”

Give Henley credit. He wasn’t undone by it. He was undaunted.

“I knew I was going to hang in there no matter what happened,” Henley said. “I wasn’t going to let it bother me.”

The Bear Trap took its toll on McIlroy, too.

Despite one pulled, tugged or hooked shot after another, McIlroy somehow managed to still hold the lead before his approach out of a fairway bunker at the 16th splashed short in the water in front of the green. The man who had fiercely closed every 54-hole lead he has held since collapsing in the final round of the Masters in 2011 wasn’t going to close out this one.

“It was very disappointing,” McIlroy said. “It was a perfect opportunity to win.”

McIlroy looked like he might still pull off the win with a magical 5-wood into the 18th, a towering 236-yard shot that landed like it hit a pillow, checking up 11 feet from the hole.

A shot off the lead, McIlroy was putting for eagle and the win, but he pushed it right.

Henley held his breath watching.

“I wasn’t a very comfortable feeling,” Henley said. “I still just tried to hang in there the best I could and not let my emotions get too up or down, no matter what happened on his putt.”

McIlroy closed with a 74.

“Just got to pick myself up, get back at it and try get myself into contention at Doral next week and get the job done then,” McIlroy said.

Henley wasn’t even qualified to play the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Trump Doral next week. His win gets him there. He’s from Macon, Ga., and played at the University of Georgia. The frosting on his win is that it gets him back into the Masters again, too.

“This is not exactly what I was expecting at the start of the week,” Henley said.

Nor an ending anyone saw coming.

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry