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Henley (68) playing it chill, and playing well at Masters

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AUGUSTA, Ga. – There are those who treat the year’s first major championship like an exam that must be crammed for, pulling the metaphorical all-nighter to learn it’s nuanced ways.

Russell Henley went a different direction this year.

“He did it right, man. Nothing on Monday, nine [practice] holes on Tuesday and nine holes on Wednesday,” said Henley’s swing coach Scott Hamilton. “You can wear yourself out around here.”

But Henley’s less-is-more philosophy at the Masters had less to do with conserving energy than it did creating the correct atmosphere.

“Whenever I start taking things too serious and putting a lot of pressure on myself, trying to be structured ...  I become a very average player,” said Henley, whose opening 68 left him one stroke off the early lead. “When I just show up like I got invited at the last minute, just to have fun, I'm a lot more fun to be around and I play better.”

And while Henley’s preparation may have been well short of the hours clocked by others this week, his experience at Augusta National goes well beyond seven tournament rounds in three starts.

Henley has been coming to the Masters, as a fan, since he was a pre-teen and first played the course on “May 7, 2008.” That was with University of Georgia coach Chris Haack, who annually brings the Bulldogs to play the course.

“I remember it was warm. I remember I shot 73. I remember I was really nervous. I remember I just moved out of my dorms in Athens [Ga.]. I just remember being on cloud nine the whole day,” he said.

So far this year he’s also remembered to take it easy.