Jan
13
2013
Rookies raging in Hawaii
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour
These kids are good

These kids are good

I’m still reeling from flu-like symptoms and the tragic loss of the Seattle Seahawks to the Atlanta Falcons, but I’m trying to put aside my qualms for the back-nine battle at the Sony Open.

Rookies Russell Henley and Scott Langley posted 17-under 193 to break the 54-hole scoring record at Waialae Country Club. The 23-year-olds entered the final round three shots clear of the closest contender, Tim Clark.

Henley and Langley, who shared low-amateur honors at the 2010 U.S. Open, have played some excellent golf. Both were practically flawless, not to mention fearless, in the first three rounds. They’ve played four days in a row together, which has been a comfortable pairing.

Just over a month ago, Langley placed T17 at the last-ever PGA Tour Q-School to earn playing rights. He spent last year playing on the mini tours and trying to Monday qualify into events. Meanwhile, Henley won twice on the Web.com Tour in 2012, finishing third on the money list.

“A month ago I was at rookie orientation, and Scott just got done with Q-school and I gave him a ride to the airport,” said Henley after firing a third-round 67 on Saturday. “We had lunch and I was telling him how awesome it was I was on the PGA Tour.  This is kind of like a dream.  It’s weird.  It’s like I’m not awake.  It’s just kind of very weird.”

He looks pretty comfortable, sitting atop the leaderboard at 19-under with six holes to play on Sunday.

“It’s a fun dynamic competing against Russell because we’re such good friends,” said Langley, a left-handed golfer who played the violin for nine years. “We’ve known each other for so long.  We’re pretty much in the same situation; he came off the Web.com Tour, I came out of Q-school.  This is our first start as Tour members.

“We kind of have that common bond out there, and you can see it, I think, when you see both of us play.  We’re having fun, we’re smiling, we’re happy to be here.  So I think that helps us play good.  We’re definitely just excited about the opportunity and just cherishing it.”

Hard not to have a good time in that situation.

Langley looked a little shaky starting out on Sunday, but regained his composure to get back to even par on his round. With a million bucks, a two-year exemption and invite to the Masters, among other things, on the line, he didn’t expect to be nervous.

“There’s obviously more at stake here, but to be honest, in the last few months of golf I’ve played, the last day of second stage of Q-school was the most pressure packed I’ve played to be honest,” said Langley after Saturday’s third round (which is a similar sentiment from my experience). “Getting through that, having no status last year and knowing what that’s like for a whole year, it all kind of builds into one day, and your whole year the next year is based on one day.  Even more second stage than finals.

“I went in finals with a really good outlook and I was already playing on house money I felt like.  No matter what I was going to be PGA Tour, Web.com Tour, and that kind of freed me up and helped me play good. Obviously tomorrow there’s more at stake than both of those events.  But I’m having a great time.  Hawai’i is so nice.  It’s relaxing.  If we get nervous at all, I just take a peek right out there and kind of get away from everything for a second, and it helps me to kind of regroup and just kind of settle myself down a little bit.”

He’s very well-spoken, too.

Henley has credited his composure partly to simply watching former University of Georgia teammate Harris English, a rookie in 2012.

“The reason I think I’m a little more comfortable out here is I watched Harris play all year last year and make a lot of money and play really, really well,” said Henley, “It’s only in my nature to want to come out here and be with him and play with him because I played with him for so long.

“I’ve got a lot of guys I’ve looked up to and hopefully somebody is looking at me right now saying I played with him in college, hopefully I can do that, too.”

Whatever happens in the last six holes, Langley and Henley have set a strong tone for their fellow rookies in the first full-field event of 2013.

(AP Photo/Marco Garcia)