Rookies share lead, 54-hole scoring record at Sony

By Doug FergusonJanuary 13, 2013, 5:46 am

HONOLULU – Scott Langley and Russell Henley joked around as if they were a couple of rookies fresh out of college.

They sure don't play like rookies.

After they set the Sony Open scoring record at 17-under 193 to share the lead, Henley walked into a news conference Saturday evening and realized Langley, who moments earlier had been sitting in the same chair, left behind his PGA Tour credentials and sunglasses.

Langley came back into the room - turns out he forgot his golf clubs, too - and Henley waved the credentials and called out to him, ''What a rookie.''

Put them on the golf course, though, and they look awfully tough to beat.

Langley relied on his stinger 3-wood on the fast fairways of Waialae and another solid round putting for a 5-under 65.

Henley took a suspect swing from the range and made it work on the course, turning a so-so round into a 67 by keeping bogeys off his card for the second straight day. He smashed a high draw on the par-5 18th over the bunker and just through the fairway, leading to a two-putt birdie that allowed him to catch Langley.

They had a three-shot lead over Tim Clark, who is finally feeling healthy again.

''I'm sure they won't be too intimidated,'' Clark said. ''That's going to be fun to see them play. There's all these young guys coming out these days, and they're ready to go right from the start. So it's going to be a fun battle.''

Langley and Henley started the Sony Open playing in the same group, not unusual because rookies are often put at the back end of the draw. They will play together Sunday for the fourth straight day, this time with a lot more at stake.

A chance to become the first rookie to win his PGA Tour debut since Garrett Willis in the 2001 Tucson.

A two-year exemption on tour.

And the sweet reward of an invitation to The Masters, rare for a rookie.

''A month ago I was at orientation, and Scott just done with Q-school, and I gave him a ride to the airport,'' Henley said. ''We had lunch and I was telling him how awesome it was I was on the PGA Tour. This is kind like a dream. It's weird. It's like I'm not awake. Very weird.''

Perhaps reality will set in Sunday, though there has been no evidence of that for three days - not the way these guys putt.

''The Vegas odds on me winning were probably not very good,'' said Langley, not a betting man himself. ''I hope somebody bet on me and I make him a lot of money.''

Langley made seven birdies to offset a pair of bogeys. Henley has been steadier, and he carries a streak of 43 holes without a bogey into the final round.

Henley looked relaxed when he finished his round and still feels as though he's playing with house money.

''Win this tournament or not, it's already been a very successful week,'' said Henley, who won twice on the Web.com Tour last year to earn his card.

''Obviously, I've played great golf, and I feel like I can compete out here. And I think when I get confidence like that, I can compete. It lets me get out of my way a little bit. It's a long year. Whatever happens tomorrow, I'm going to learn from it.''

The rookies have ruled along the shores of Oahu, and if not for Clark, it would have been even more pronounced. Clark made a birdie on the last hole that put him into the final group.

Otherwise, that spot would have been occupied by Scott Gardiner of Australia, who had a 64 and was four shots behind.

Charles Howell III, twice a runner-up at the Sony Open, had a 67 and also was four behind.

''We'll see what happens,'' Howell said. ''Those young kids are running away with it, but I'll just do my best tomorrow to have a nice week.''

Seven players were within five shots of the lead, which included Monday qualifier Danny Lee and Pat Perez, whose goal to have a more positive attitude was severely tested on the final hole when he missed a 40-inch birdie putt. Perez still had a 67 and was at 12-under 198.

Henley and Langley shared low amateur honors at Pebble Beach in the 2010 U.S. Open, and then became fast friends by flying together to Northern Ireland for the Palmer Cup. They were thrilled to be playing together for their rookie debut in the opening two rounds.

Neither had any idea they would still be together going into the final round. Nobody has been able to catch them.

''I never imagined that,'' Langley said. ''It's certainly odd. But you know, if there was a guy in the field that I would love to do it with, it would be Russell because we play pretty similar games, and we're kind of the same guy on the course. We play pretty quickly and pretty easy going, kind of feel our way around, not too technical. So there are a lot of guys that I enjoy playing with, but Russell is definitely one of them.''

Langley was two shots behind until a two-putt birdie on the ninth and a short birdie putt on the 10th to tie for the lead. He pulled ahead with a 12-foot birdie putt on the 13th, and after a three-putt bogey, regained the lead with a 15-foot birdie putt on the 15th.

He kept in front with a 7-foot par save on the 17th, but took himself out of an easy birdie chance on the 18th when his ball settled just in front of a large tree root.

In another veteran move, he took a steep swing so that the club narrowly passed over the exposed root and struck the ball cleanly, though it still left him a wedge into the green.

Those expecting to see the rookies get stage fright in the final group on the weekend quickly learned that these aren't ordinary rookies - at least not on Saturday. Both played with remarkable poise and kept this Sony Open a two-man show.

Except for John Daly, of course, who always manages to keep it interesting. He pulled his tee shot into the hill on the sixth hole, hit a rock and hurt his shoulder.

He made triple bogey, took four shots from 20 feet on the next hole for double bogey, made another triple bogey on the eighth and then holed a 50-foot birdie for a 45 on the front nine. That gave him a 79.

A far more subtle meltdown belonged to Chris Kirk. He was two shots out of the lead when he hit a tee shot into the canal on the par-5 ninth, his next shot out of bounds and made a 20-foot putt to escape with a triple bogey. He played the other par 5 much differently, chipping in from 80 feet for eagle on the 18th to salvage a 68. He was five behind.

Henley started the third round with a two-shot lead and he didn't give it up until Langley holed a 12-foot birdie from just on the fringe at the 13th. They play different styles, with Langley hitting low shots with great control, but both of them can putt.

Henley showed that with a number of par saves early on, along with his 15-foot birdie on the second hole and another birdie from about 8 feet on No. 8.

He made nine straight pars after that until his birdie on the last hole.

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After Further Review: Nelson lost in the shuffle?

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 21, 2018, 3:40 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 Nelson's future ...

If the goal was “different” by bringing the AT&T Byron Nelson to Trinity Forest, consider it achieved. But bringing a world-class field south of Dallas could still be tricky.

Yes, the tournament can always rely on local resident and AT&T spokesman Jordan Spieth to throw his hat in the ring. But even with Spieth strolling the fairways this week, the field strength was among the worst all season for a full-point event.

The debut of the sprawling, links-like layout likely did little to sway the undecideds, with only the third round offering the challenging conditions that course co-designer Ben Crenshaw had envisioned. And the schedule won’t do them any favors next year, as a revamped itinerary likely puts the Nelson right before the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black.

The course will inevitably get better with age, and Spieth expects positive word of mouth to spread. But it might be a while before the stars truly align for an event that, for the moment, feels lost in the shuffle of a hectic schedule. – Will Gray


On Jordan Spieth's putting ...

Jordan Spieth’s putting is plainly bad right now, but it isn’t going to stay this bad forever.

He is the second ranked player on Tour in strokes gained: tee-to-green, just like he was last year. This putting slump has lingered, but it’s unfathomable to think this guy just forgot how to putt.

Sooner rather than later he’s going to remember he’s Jordan Spieth and the 40-footers are going to start pouring in. He’ll be telling Greller to go get the ball because he’s too far away and the tee is in the other direction.

Bottom line, the ball striking is for real and the putting slump will pass. He’ll win soon – maybe even as soon as this week. – Nick Menta


On golf and gambling ...

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court over tuned a federal ban on sports betting in most states, a move the PGA Tour and many professional sports leagues embraced as a tool to both build fan interest and grow revenue.

Experts estimate sports betting could become a $150-$200 billion annual industry, and even a small piece of that could be significant for golf, but there will be risks.

Unlike any other sport, golf is played on multiple fields simultaneously, which inherently creates risks when gambling is introduced to the equation. Although the Tour has gone to great pains to head off any potential problems, like all bets gambling comes with great rewards, and great risks. – Rex Hoggard

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Wise continues whirlwind ascent with first win

By Will GrayMay 21, 2018, 3:13 am

DALLAS – Still shy of his 22nd birthday, Aaron Wise continues to prove himself to be a quick learner.

Wise went from unheralded prospect to NCAA individual champ seemingly in the blink of an eye while at the University of Oregon. After eschewing his final two years of eligibility in Eugene, he won in Canada on the Mackenzie Tour in his third start as a professional.

He continued a quick learning curve with a win last year on the Web.com Tour to propel him to the big leagues, and he didn’t flinch while going toe-to-toe with Jason Day two weeks ago, even though the result didn’t go his way.

Faced with another opportunity to take down a top-ranked Aussie, Wise made sure he got the job done Sunday at the AT&T Byron Nelson – even though it took until dark.

With mid-day rains turning a firm and fast layout into a birdie barrage, Wise seamlessly switched gears and put his first PGA Tour title on ice in impressive fashion with a bogey-free 65. Deadlocked with Marc Leishman to start the day, Wise made six birdies in his first 10 holes and coasted to a three-shot win as the leaders barely beat the setting sun to avoid an anticlimactic Monday finish at Trinity Forest Golf Club.


Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos


As it turned out, the hardest part of the day was enduring the four-hour weather delay alongside his mother, Karla, as his afternoon tee time turned into a twilight affair.

“She was talking to me in the hotel about what a win could mean, what a second could mean, kind of taking me through all that,” Wise said. “I was like, I’ve got to calm down. I can’t just sit here. I said, ‘You’ve got to go.’ I kind of made her leave the room.”

Wise displayed some jitters right out of the gates, with a nervy three-putt par on the opening hole. But with several players going on birdie runs to turn what seemed like a two-man race into a much more wide-open affair, Wise went on a tear of his own with four birdies in a row on Nos. 7-10.

That gave him a window over Leishman and the rest of the chase pack, and he never looked back.

“I talked to myself and kind of made myself trust my putting,” Wise said. “These greens out here are really tricky, and for me to roll those putts in on 8 and 9 really kind of separated things.”

Leishman had held at least a share of the lead after each round, and the 34-year-old veteran was looking for his third win in the last 14 months. But a bogey on No. 10 coincided with a Wise birdie to boost the rookie’s advantage from two shots to four, and Leishman never got closer than three shots the rest of the way.

“He holed putts he needed to hole, and I didn’t,” Leishman said. “Hit a couple loose shots where I could have probably put a bit of pressure on him, and didn’t. And that’s probably the difference in the end.”

Instead of sitting next to a trophy in Dallas, Wise could have been closing out his senior season next week with an NCAA appearance at Karsten Creek. But the roots of his quick climb trace back to the Master of the Amateurs in Australia in December 2015, a tournament he won and one that gave him confidence that he could hold his own against the best in the world. He returned to Eugene and promptly told his coach, Casey Martin, that he planned to turn pro in the spring.

The same dogged confidence that drove that decision has been the guiding force behind a whirlwind ascent through every rung of the professional ladder.

“I just have a lot of belief in myself. I didn’t come from a lot. A lot of people don’t know that. I didn’t get to travel a bunch when I played junior golf,” Wise said. “Kind of all along it’s been very, very few moments to shine and I have had to take advantage of them.”

Despite that belief, even Wise admits that he’s “shocked” to turn only his second real chance to contend at this level into a maiden victory. But fueled by the memories of a close call two weeks ago, he put the lessons learned at Quail Hollow to quick use while taking the next step in an increasingly promising career arc.

“It was awesome, everything I dreamed of,” Wise said. “To walk up 18, knowing I kind of had it locked up, was pretty cool.”

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Grace celebrates birthday with final-round 62

By Will GrayMay 21, 2018, 1:51 am

DALLAS – Branden Grace celebrated his 30th birthday in style, making the biggest charge of the final round at the AT&T Byron Nelson.

Grace closed out a 9-under 62 as the sun began to set at Trinity Forest Golf Club, moving from outside the top 10 into a share of third place, four shots behind Aaron Wise. It equaled Grace’s career low on the PGA Tour, which he originally set last summer at The Open, and it was one shot off Marc Leishman’s course-record 61 from the opening round.

“Good birthday present. It was fun,” Grace said. “Little bit of imagination, little bit of luck here and there. You get more luck on the links golf course than maybe on a normal golf course.”


Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos


Weeks after Grace’s wife gave birth to the couple’s first child, he now has his best result on the PGA Tour since winning the RBC Heritage more than two years ago. As a world traveler and former Presidents Cup participant, the South African embraced an opportunity this week to go off the beaten path on an unconventional layout.

“It feels like a breath of fresh air coming to something different. Really is nice. I really enjoyed the golf course,” he said. “Obviously I think we got really lucky with the weather, and that’s why the scores are so low. It can bite you if it settles in a little bit in the next couple years.”

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Scott barely misses qualifying for U.S. Open

By Will GrayMay 21, 2018, 1:33 am

DALLAS – A birdie on the 72nd hole gave Adam Scott a glimmer of hope, but in the end even a closing 65 at the AT&T Byron Nelson wasn’t enough to earn an exemption into next month’s U.S. Open.

Scott entered the week ranked No. 65 in the world, and the top 60 in next week’s rankings automatically qualify for Shinnecock Hills. The cutoff was a big reason why the 2008 tournament champ returned for Trinity Forest’s debut, and midway through the final round it seemed like the Aussie had a shot at snagging a bid at the 11th hour.

Scott needed at least a solo ninth-place finish to pass an idle Chesson Hadley at No. 60, and while his 5-footer on the 18th green gave him a share of sixth place when he completed play, he ultimately ended up in a three-way tie for ninth at 15 under – barely short of a spot in the top 60.


Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos


“I tried to make the most of really favorable conditions today, and I did a pretty good job of it. Just never really got a hot run going,” Scott said. “I feel like I struggled on the weekend reading the greens well enough to really get it going, but I think everyone but the leaders did that, too. They’re not the easiest greens to read.”

Scott has played each of the last three weeks in an effort to earn a U.S. Open exemption, and he’ll make it four in a row next week when he returns to the Fort Worth Invitational on a course where he won in 2013. Scott still has another chance to avoid sectional qualifying by earning a top-60 spot at the second and final cutoff on June 11 following the FedEx St. Jude Classic.

Scott has played 67 majors in a row, a streak that dates back to 2001 and is second only to Sergio Garcia among active players. While he’s prepared to play each of the next three weeks in a last-ditch effort to make the field, he’s taking his schedule one event at a time with the hope that one more good result might take care of business.

“I’ll play next week and hopefully play really well, and give myself a bit of cushion so I can take a week or so off and try to prepare the best I can for the U.S. Open,” Scott said.