‘I just suffocated:’ Tour winner’s honest admission of past struggles | Tech US News

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Russell Henley changed the 54-hole lead for the first time since 2013 on Sunday.

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There are certain words Tour pros avoid at all costs.

Yikes and arms are high on the list. That’s right, too to suffocate.

But you wouldn’t know it if you listened to Russell Henley’s speech Sunday night after winning his fourth PGA Tour title.

Entering the final round of the World Tech Championship at Mayakoba, Henley was just one-for-six in converting a 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour. His last win was more than five years ago, and his last and only previous win when he led after three rounds came at the 2013 Sony Open.

In the past three seasons alone, Henley has held the 54-hole lead four times, including at the 2021 US Open, but came away without a win.

“I just choked, you know?” Henley said his last 70 in Mexico gave him a comfortable four-shot victory. “My nerves got to me and I made bad mistakes, bad mental mistakes and I just didn’t do it on Sunday.”

After finally getting the win on Sunday, Henley was asked if he found the win “a bit of a monkey-off-your-back scenario.”

Russell Henley of the United States plays his second shot on the 5th hole during the final round of the World Technology Championship at Club de Golf El Camaleon on November 6, 2022 in Playa del Carmen.

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“Me,” said Henley. “It was nice to come out and kind of do everything right today, on the green and keep it pretty clean and just play calm. I don’t think I would have done it if I hadn’t failed so many times.”

Fittingly, Henley’s 70 in the final round was enough to win. He’s consistently ranked in the top 20 on the PGA Tour in first-round scoring average over the past three seasons, but has dropped into the 40s in final-round scoring average. That might not sound like much of a problem, but when you take away the 63 he posted for winning the 2013 Sony Open, his scoring average in his extended lead is 70.4.

Henley just didn’t play his best when he needed to. But on Sunday, Henley, with his biggest 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour in more than a year — a six-shot lead — didn’t need his best stuff.

There was one disturbing moment. On the 5th hole, Henley’s second shot on the par-5 found the penalty area, possibly due to a mud ball.

“I was trying to aim to the right to give myself some room, because usually when the mud is on the right side of the ball, it goes left,” Henley said of his approach. “I didn’t aim far enough to the right, maybe I didn’t swing well, it’s hard to know, but the ball just went left all the way. And I really don’t hit a shot like that too often, or I haven’t lately, so it was frustrating.

“I feel like maybe I should have played a little more conservatively than I did. I thought I made the right decision at the time.”

He made his first bogey of the week when he couldn’t get up after falling. His lead was cut to just three strokes after Scottie Scheffler went 18 under.

russell henley scotty cameron putter mayakoba

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“After that, my caddy, Andy [Sanders], he just said, ‘Shut up, let’s just keep doing what we’re doing,’ because I hit the first four holes and then the 5-putt into the fairway, the green and birdie putt and played well,” Henley said. “So he said, ‘Let’s keep doing what we’re doing,’ and I said OK, I’m going to keep fighting, keep trying to hit the fairways and the greens, and it was nice to come back with a birdie on 6.”

Not only did Henley birdie 6, but also 7 and 8 to restore his six-stroke lead. He hit trouble on 16, but with a five-shot lead and just three holes to play, the long bunker shot seemed a lot less stressful. A bogey ended up being the difference between tying the tournament scoring record and tying the score, but it was important for Henley to get the job done.

“When I was 18, I kind of felt like I wanted to cry a little bit,” Henley said. “It was almost like just a little bit of emotion, just so much happiness, looking back at the times when I was kind of choking. I remember him in Greensboro a few years ago, he just should have easily won the tournament, he played great and he just didn’t make it. It felt so hard because I put in a lot of work, like all of us, and I just suffocated.”

There’s that word again!

Kudos to Henley for the win – and his honesty.

Jack Hirsch

Editor of Golf.com

Jack Hirsh is an associate editor at GOLF. A native of Pennsylvania, Jack graduated from Penn State University in 2020 with a BA in Broadcast Journalism and Political Science. He was captain of his high school golf team and still *trying* to stay competitive in the local amateurs. Prior to joining GOLF, Jack worked for two years at a TV station in Bend, Oregon, primarily as a multimedia journalist/reporter, but also as a producer, anchor and even a weather presenter. He can be reached at [email protected].

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