Henley off to hot start after 7-under 65 at Players


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – A hot start and a torrid finish were enough to propel Russell Henley to a 7-under 65 Thursday, leaving him two shots off the lead at The Players Championship.

A winner earlier this year at the Honda Classic, Henley birdied three of his first four holes, but gave two shots back with a double bogey on No. 7. He then caught fire on the back nine, carding an inward 30 that tied a tournament record.

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“It was one of those back nines where you kind of get to 18 and I just realized that I had a putt for 7 under,” said Henley, who took 26 putts during his opening round. “So that was pretty cool, but it didn’t really hit me until the last hole.”

Henley had two different stretches of three straight birdies, first on holes 10-12 and again on Nos. 15-17. The 25-year-old was dialed in with his approach shots, as only one of the six birdie putts he holed on the back nine was from longer than seven feet.

“I felt really comfortable on the greens today,” Henley said. “I made some good par saves that kept my round going. Kept it smooth. As long as I keep feeling comfortable with the putter, I think I can putt well on these greens.”

While the putting surfaces at the Stadium Course have been the subject of much pre-tournament scrutiny, Henley found no issue with them after completing a round that left him two shots clear of a host of competitors.

“They’re perfect,” he said. “They roll very true and very healthy and just like last year, they’re some of the best greens we play all year.”