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« Updated 2014 Masters Odds... | Main | More Honda Drama: Tiger WD's With Back Spasms »

Roundup: Russell Henley Wins Wacky Honda Classic

So glad we're back to stroke play where the best player always wins, unlike that goofy match play where anything can happen!

After leading for three rounds, Rory McIlory posted a final round 74, turning what had been a dreadfully dull tournament into one of the most bizarre stroke play (in a good way) finishes in a while.

Doug Ferguson's game story on a Honda Classic final day where he notes that "the 24-year-old from Northern Ireland closed with a 74, "the second straight tournament in stroke play that he played in the final group and shot 74."

But at least Caroline appeared to stay outside the ropes this time, so she can't be blamed!

No, this one was all on Rory and he said so after the round when talking about his disastrous fairway bunker shot on 16. Will Gray reports:

“Obviously the second shot at 16 killed me,” he said. “I was underneath it and came in a little heavy.”

On the next hole, McIlroy’s tee shot tumbled into a bunker long and left of the green. He splashed out to 10 feet, but he failed to make the par-saving putt.

McIlroy birdied 18 to tie for the lead, but he once again found sand when playing the par-5 minutes later in a four-man playoff. His approach found a bunker behind the green, and when his sand shot rolled past the pin and into light rough, his fate was largely sealed.

“It was impossible to get any spin on it,” McIlroy said. “Played it the best way I could, but the lie was sort of against me on the slope.”

Brian Keogh salutes McIlroy for post-round honesty.

Then he redeemed the loss with a brilliantly honest post-round interview that should be used surely put and end to any further attempts to put out those sanitised Q&A's he’s lent his name to recently.

“…but yeah,” he said after going through the shots that mangled him in the Bear Trap and in the play-off, “74 today wasn’t good enough to get the job done. You know, even if I had won, it would have felt a little bit undeserved.

Gary Van Sickle on the colliding of possible future superstars:

It appears that Rory isn’t all the way back to where he was before all of his life changes. He is close, yes, but that’s all.

“There are a few positives to take,” he said, “but it’s going to be hard to get over because I had a great chance to win my first tournament of the season and I didn’t.”

Henley, who wears a certain indefinable intensity, is an impressive 24 years old. So is McIlroy.
Maybe, if we’re incredibly lucky, this could be the start of something big.

John Strege on Jack Nicklaus's NBC booth appearance where he tried to remind Rory that he wasn't trying to beat Johnny, Tom, Gary, Lee or Arnold.

"One thing that Rory's got to think about here is who's on the leader board," Nicklaus said. "When I was playing we used to have Johnny Miller on the leader board, or we had Tom Weiskopf, or Tom Watson, or Arnold, or Gary, or Trevino, who you know were going to finish. These guys are kind of unproven. They're all good players, but not proven. Rory is a proven player and Rory should have the advantage coming down the stretch with them."

One would think.

And Gene Wojciechowski summed the wild antics best...

It would have been fun had he played better and not gotten into a fistfight with his back. A 67 would have put him into the playoff.

It would have been fun had McIlroy not lost the lug nuts on his final-round wheels. Or if he had taken advantage of the longest drive on the first and only playoff hole.

None of it happened. Woods limped off the course. McIlroy limped out of the playoff.
Henley and his immediate family loved how everything turned out. Good for them. Bad for drama.

The Highlights:

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Reader Comments (34)

Speaking of inside the ropes, while Caroline stayed outside of them the other sports star girlfriend didn't. Now granted Lindsey had Tiger's kids and frankly inside the ropes is probably the only way for them actually see & also be relatively unfettered. Plus they def weren't walking all 18, and seemed to stay out of the way unlike Caroline in Dubai. But they did have a conversation after the 9th hole today. But given all the discussion on Caroline earlier this yr, I did find it interesting to note.
03.2.2014 | Unregistered CommenterElf
Compelling tv today. A gag feast interrupted only by that sublime five wood or Rory's to the 18th.
03.2.2014 | Unregistered CommenterSari
"So glad we're back to stroke play where the best player always wins, unlike that goofy match play where anything can happen!"

Agree 110%...
03.2.2014 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
Russell Henley has won twice now in the last two seasons. If I'm not mistaken...the rest of the Top 10 in today's Honda have a combined 0 wins in the past two seasons. If winning counts, and most visitors here should believe it should, I'm not sure you can say the best player didn't win.
03.2.2014 | Unregistered CommenterRM
A few years ago I was lucky enough to play PGA National in a scramble on someone else's dime. A solid 12-handicapper I nevertheless carried our weak team through a 3-5-3 on the Bear Trap, blemished only by a fat approach on the 16th. Our tees were far shorter than the Honda tees, so it's not a fair comparison -- but my wife and daughters don't know that. They only know that every year I shout, "I did better than THESE GUYS!" or "These guys are BAD -- compared to me!"

It never gets old -- to me -- and it has morphed into a warped family tradition.

So... I loved this year's finale.
03.2.2014 | Unregistered Commenter3foot1
Nothing like warped family traditions ! It was compelling TV indeed...enjoyed it immensely.
"So glad we're back to stroke play where the best player always wins, unlike that goofy match play where anything can happen!"
I just had to laugh...nice one Geoff !
If Rory were not on that leaderboard, it would generally be considered dreadful.
03.2.2014 | Unregistered CommenterSkippy
RM, your not being serious, are you?
03.2.2014 | Unregistered Commenterol Harv
they never commented on the tee shot at 9 that ended up in the fwy bunker, but Rory trurned right after te hit and glared as if a noise occurred in his swing. It add up, but I give credit to RH- he kept his head in it and won.

Well done!

03.2.2014 | Unregistered Commenterdigsouth
Henley has to be a lock for a major...
03.2.2014 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
Couldn't agree more DTF!!! He's a lock to win one THIS YEAR.

Other locks to win a major this year include: Harris English, Jimmy Walker, Gary Woodland, Jordan Spieth, Kyle Stanley, and Scott Stallings.

Locks to win multiple majors this year include: Matt Kuchar, Lee Westwood, Hunter Mahan, Dustin Johnson, Brandt Snedeker, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Luke Donald, Jason Day, and Ian Poulter.

And while I'm at it let me throw out some dark horse picks for winning a major this year: Steve Stricker, Colin Montgomery, Blake Adams and Bill Haas.
Speaking of Jack Nicklaus, how many of you remember him making birdies on the final five holes to win this event in 1978 when it was called Jackie Gleason Inverrary Classic? I recall watching it on TV with my father. I was a high school junior at the time.
03.2.2014 | Unregistered CommenterTom Ierubino
He beat Grier Jones. It's funny you mention it, because it was the first PGA Tour Sunday telecast I watched in its entirety.
03.2.2014 | Unregistered CommenterGmail
One of the great reactions of all time by Grier Jones.
He was asked if he said anything to Nicklause when he mad those birdies.
Jones answered. "I said: good shot, good shot, good shot, good shot"
03.3.2014 | Unregistered Commenterbecause
Writers can never seem to bring themselves to a point of simply enjoying the game, competition and results. No matter what the scores are and who the actors are. They lament and feel cheated if a marquee leaderboard fails to materialize heading to the back-9 on Sunday. And it shows in the product. IMHO the only one that has a right to feel that way would be the title sponsor.
03.3.2014 | Unregistered CommenterD. maculata

Writers aren't there to enjoy the game. Their publication space is empty and they have to fill it with whatever they got, even if it's BS.

Writing about their own disappointment is the easiest article to create. That's why most journalists are hacks.
03.3.2014 | Unregistered CommenterDC

Golf writers like stories that write themselves. When play proceeds contrary to their expected narrative, you can often sense their dismay at being wrong. Nobody had Henley winning at Sundays start; it was McIlroy cementing his comeback, or Woods charging on the weekend warming up for Augusta but coming up just short. To his credit, Chamblee gave Henley a 35% chance of winning, but even he said that nobody really had a chance of beating Rory. At least that's what I remember of the conversation that set up the NBC telecast.
03.3.2014 | Unregistered Commentertlavin
Agree with D-Mac. It's a sporting event. Everyone starts at zero and best player that day (or week) wins. Enjoy the surroundings and the competition and write about what did happen rather than what should have happened or what you wish had happened. It takes a little more creativity to do so and avoid the same tired themes, but as this forum proves there is an audience starving to read quality writing.
03.3.2014 | Unregistered CommenterNC
Confirmation! Thank you, gentlemen.
03.3.2014 | Unregistered CommenterD. maculata finish to say the least. A big reason people watch auto racing are the (potential) car crashes....right digs?

Good win for RH. Yet another under the radar sub 25yr old with tons of game. They're everywhere these days!
03.3.2014 | Unregistered Commenterjohnnnycz
I see the point-missers are out in force today. If you ever came in the press tent you'd know there is no group that more enjoys the competition and the results. Sure, we root for the big name sometimes, but if you think the guys and gals covering the Honda yesterday were anything but thrilled to be writing that, you need to get out more. Or read more.
03.3.2014 | Registered CommenterGeoff
I'm available for a press pass at Doral and the Players ;-)
03.3.2014 | Unregistered CommenterD. maculata
from Gene Wojciechowski's article....."Nothing against the 24-year-old Henley, who now has wins in each of the past two years, but Sunday wasn't a great day for the tour if you believe in star power."

Rephrasing several folk's comments above, this is what's wrong with most of modern golf writing. If it's not a "star" in contention/winning/hurting his back, it's not meaningful. Give me a break. So much of what modern golf writers put on paper reminds me of teen magazine writers my sister used to follow....when she was a kid.

How about some thoughtful writing on what was a stunning final round with all any serious golfer/golf fan would like to see?
03.3.2014 | Unregistered Commenterc
I have no idea what some of you are on about with this writers thing. The writers are some of the only ones who get it, and if more golf fans bothered to read, we might be able to claw out way out of this 'only celebrity golfers matter' problem we have. The proof is right here in the comments section: Skippy says "If Rory were not on that leaderboard, it would generally be considered dreadful." That is how many golf fans view things, because that is what they are fed by NBC/CBS/golf channel. Generally it's the writers who dig deeper and try to provide other dimensions to these events.
03.3.2014 | Unregistered CommenterPress Agent
If "only celebrity golfers matter", that's the marketplace. Not a problem , just the face of the average golf viewer. It's entertainment, not the global economy or the Ukraine.
03.3.2014 | Unregistered CommenterAG
When Russell wins two majors in runaway fashion, or 14 majors, he'll get the same "starpower" mentions.

It was great drama and the accounts I linked above conveyed that, it seemed.

Let's not forget that in the two prior events, Jason Allred's third place nearly overshadowed Bubba Watson's win at Riviera and Victor Dubuisson's loss to Jason Day was heavily covered. Both because they were great stories, and great stories fleshed out by writers or TV producers asking questions.
03.3.2014 | Registered CommenterGeoff
A major point here is that "the story" usually loses, and sometimes time reveals that the lesser story that emerged is proven to be a better story after all. See Geoff Ogilvy at Winged Foot and GMac at Pebble. Granted those were majors and this was not, but it's not like we have never seen a tournament unfold like this before. There are many layers to yesterday's tournament to unravel, and that is when pro golf is at its best. But it seems that for many commenting here, that a logical theme of giving Russell Henley proper credit is lacking. No, he is not better in the big picture than Rory, but what in the hell does that have to do with what happens coming down the stretch? If the better player always won, Phil Mickelson would have a few US Opens in his trophy case.
03.3.2014 | Unregistered CommenterRM
@c trust, none of the golf media enjoyed writing or having to cover the Tiger WD, or the fact that they are now going to have to cover the back story for the next several days. Most of them write about go of because they love golf. Nor are they wildly excited about having to ask a 24yo most of them like about choking.

But the reality is they have a job to the public, and a 24yo former #1, 2x major winner blowing a lead in spectacular fashion on the back 9 needs to be covered. And many more fans/people who read/the reasons media owners can justify salaries, care about tiger's WD than henley's victory. And given that he is the number one player in the world, and has won 14 majors, this makes sense too.
03.3.2014 | Unregistered CommenterElf
Please allow me to offer some perspective from someone who has been in the golf media since the 1970s. Golf writing - all sports writing - has changed dramatically over the years. The biggest change? It's no longer pure information presentation so much as it is a business. If you don't want to be buried in the back of the Sports section, or on the bottom of the headline stack on your web site, you have to write about subjects that will sell newspapers or get internet clicks. (And in most cases, you have to write what your editors want you to write, at least in terms of subject matter. You can take any stance you want, but the subject has to be a high-profile one.)

Tiger withdrawing and Rory blowing it are both much bigger stories than Russell Henley winning. Yes, hard-core golf fans will be interested in Russell Henley, but hard-core golf fans make up a minority of the people who read newspapers or go on websites. It's the masses who must be catered to, in the name of the bottom line. And there's nothing wrong with that. Some people will call that greed, but it's not. It's survival, which must be a business' first priority.

The journalist who does get to (or has to) write about Russell Henley often does so enthusiastically, because he or she will get to tell readers something they don't already know. There's nothing worse than having to write the same old Tiger or Rory story over and over again. Columnists do it, however, because even the same old Tiger or Rory stories will get a lot more readers than even the best Russell Henley story. That's just the way it is.
03.3.2014 | Unregistered CommenterJust My Opinion
Hey JMO and Geoff,

Thanks for your perspectives. I think those who frequent this space fall in the "hard-core fans" category, and do hunger for a wider variety of subjects and deeper coverage of those subjects when encountered (i.e. the recent link on this site to the USGA's short film on William J. Powell). We also get the business aspect of it, and the need to cater to the masses. This is why we are all so delighted when a gem of a story does turn up, and mourn the fact that it does so infrequently.

Thanks again to Geoff for his comments, for providing this forum, and for continuing to post links to a wider array of articles than I would normally encounter.
03.3.2014 | Unregistered Commenterfeel player
Wasn't too long ago I saw the following lead by Geoff: "Gallacher Wins! Rory, Tiger Get All The Attention"
03.3.2014 | Unregistered CommenterNo Longer
Well said JMO. Minority in a niche sport btw.
03.3.2014 | Unregistered CommenterAG
Geoff and GMO,

Well stated, but if you take Monday morning scribbler and Sunday night commentator off of our fake resumes, most of us would have nothing to say. Which is sometimes the case, I suppose...
03.3.2014 | Unregistered Commentertlavin
Hey Geoff, thanks for the reply. My point wasn't to argue who gets star power treatment. My point is Gene W's (and all to many other golf writer's) implied/almost expressly stated point of view that it couldn't be fun unless the big names win. Just look at the last couple of sentences in the excerpt you quote. Apparently the only ones who benefit from what happened were Henley and his family. "Bad for drama." Really?
03.4.2014 | Unregistered Commenterc

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