With the logjam near the top of the leaderboard, Russell Henley probably wasn’t the guy you were expecting to go out and post a six-under 65 to take the lead at 12-under. Despite not birdieing the reachable-in-two par-5 18th, Henley still took a one-shot advantage over Billy Horschel, who birdied his last three holes to post a four-under 67 and get to 11-under.
“I felt like I’ve been playing well all three days and hitting my driver well,” said Henley, a graduate of the University of Georgia. “I gave myself a lot of good chances for birdie today.
And was able to capitalize on most of them.
“I didn’t really feel like I had to grind too much out there. And usually when you have a good round like that it seems pretty easy. Hopefully I can just keep doing that.”
The strong winds that were forecasted didn’t materialize on Sunday, which lent to favorable scoring conditions. Henley was among four players who posted six-under in the third round. The only two who did better were Rory McIlroy and Chris Kirk, both of whom fired seven-under 64s to trail Henley by two strokes.
“I think the wind was a little bit trickier the first two days,” said Henley. “And from Friday to Saturday, it changed completely and was opposite directions. I think today it was just a bit warmer out and probably wasn’t blowing quite as hard and just made a couple of extra putts.”
Henley only needed 26 putts on Sunday.
He’ll have his eye out on the world no. 1 player, who is on his heels.
“The No. 1 player in the world?” said Henley when asked if he’ll be thinking about McIlroy on Monday. “Absolutely. You’ve got to play all four rounds out here on Tour and I expect everybody out there to go play well tomorrow. Everybody is so good at this level and it’s so hard to compete and beat these guys.
“Rory is having a great year, and a lot of guys are playing well. So it’s so far off, so much golf we play to be thinking about too much. But I’m not really going to be keeping an eye on anybody, I expect everybody to play really well and I’m going to try to play well.”
Earlier this year, Henley captured the Honda Classic (for his second victory on Tour) in a four-man playoff that included McIlroy. He’ll try to draw from that experience headed into the final round, but he certainly won’t have the luxury of relying on it.
“I guess it’s knowing that I can compete,” said Henley. “I’ve won twice out here. One time I birdied the last five holes and shot 29 on the back nine. One time I tried to hold it together
the last couple of holes and won in a playoff. There’s a lot of ways to win. But I’m trying to not focus on that. I’m just trying to really enjoy it.”
The bonus of being Russell Henley is that he’s flying under the radar. He said it himself best.
“Nobody is really expecting me to be sitting here right now,” said Henley. “And that’s kind of how I like it.”
However, he does indeed expect himself to be where he is, which is the only person that really matters.
“I believe in myself,” he said. “And I think hopefully you’ll be seeing more of me in the future, but this game is so hard, I don’t know.”
As for making the Ryder Cup team, that’s a bit of a long shot for Henley.
“Making the Ryder Cup team would be great,” said Henley. “It’s pretty far off. I’ve got to play a lot of good golf tomorrow. That would be a great thing. It’s just one of those things that I try not to think
“Coming in here, I mean, nobody is really expecting me to play well. I was 62 or something in the
FedEx coming in, and hadn’t had the most consistent year. It all sounds great and it seems great, but I’ve got to do a lot of good stuff for that to happen.”