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: