Henley currently sits in a tie for 122nd, well off the pace of a trio of players tied at 8 under. Last year the cut line came in at 7 under par while the winning score eventually stood at 30 under par. (See Kip's Round Shot-By-Shot)
It was kinda ugly, wasnt it? But I did hang in there, said Henley after completing his first round with a par saving putt at the 18th. I hit a lot of loose shots but Im still in the tournament even though I know Im going to have to take it deep tomorrow.
Trying to overcome first-tee jitters, Henleys drive at the first resulted in a tough lie in a fairway bunker which led to bogey.
He quickly settled down, however, and reeled off three straight pars before coming to the par-5 fifth.
After bombing a drive just off the fairway to the left, Henley laid up then stuck his approach to within 9 feet and then ran home the birdie putt to get back to even par for the day.
Things looked to be getting even better for the 44-year-old Tennessee native after he busted a drive at the par-4 seventh and his subsequent wedge shot left him 17 feet below the hole. He then proceeded to drain his second birdie putt of the day to seemingly go to 1 under.
It was here, however, that things suddenly took a disastrous turn.
As he walked to the next hole, he noticed that the ball he picked out of the hole after his birdie putt was not the same ball with which he had started the hole. His caddie, who also is Henleys sponsor, had inadvertently tossed him a different ball after cleaning it on the green.
Despite knowing that no one in the world would be able to tell the difference, Henley had no other option than to inform his playing partners at the next tee box of the infraction. The resulting two-stroke penalty left Henley at 1 over par instead of 1 under.
We had a little bit of craziness going on out there due to us being a little out of our element, said Henley on the miscue. Maybe I can settle down a little bit and maybe play better tomorrow.
Henley regrouped in a hurry with four straight pars before reaching the 608-yard, par-5 12th. A wayward tee shot left him in a bunker on the right side of the fairway. He laid up on his second shot and then left his approach shot some 25 feet short of the pin. With putter in hand, Henley drained the long birdie effort to get back to even par for his round.
He closed out his round with six straight pars, the final two coming with a pair of long, clutch par-saving putts.
His subsequent adventure on the 18th was indicative of his round as a whole.
After smashing his drive down the middle of the fairway, Henleys approach found the water guarding the 18th green. After a drop, his wedge landed 12 feet short of the pin. He then dropped in his putt to save par and finish at even-par 72.
I think I can do it, said Henley on his prospects going forward. If I drive it like I did today Ill be OK.
I hit a lot of loose wedges and a couple of fat shots and you can see I have a few holes in my game. But Ive got like seven or eight weeks to dam them all up and maybe Ill be able to do something special before much longer.
For the day, Henley found 8 of 14 fairways, hit 11 greens in regulation and totaled 27 putts.
To start here in this town and the way theyve been treating me has just completely been overwhelming. Its been pretty special, said Henley. I dont think I made a complete fool of myself, but I know I didnt play as well as I wanted to either. Im going to come out with both guns blazing tomorrow and maybe do something.
Added The GolfChannel's Jerry Foltz, who followed Henley for all 18 holes, 'I think he's got a lot to be proud of. He fought back hard after some adversity - he got a horrible lie on the first hole, another horrible lie on the second hole, a two-stroke penalty on the seventh green and from that point forward played 1 under par with a few more birdie opportunities. You know, he's just something special, he really is.'