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By Kevin Currie, Golf Editor - Archive - Email
Big weekend for a pair of rookies
Russell Henley became the first player since Garrett Willis
in 2001 to win his first start as an official PGA Tour member.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The two were paired together for all four rounds of the Sony Open in Hawaii, which is unusual in and of itself.

Russell Henley, Scott Langley.

Scott Langley, Russell Henley.

They were like Frick and Frack. Paired together in every round, doing interviews together, you would think these two were good friends.

And you'd be right. The pair shared low amateur honors at the 2010 U.S. Open, and have been good friends ever since. So when they were paired together for the first two rounds at Waialae, it seemed destined to be a good week, for one or the other.

Langley shot 62 in the first round to lead by one over Henley. In round two, Henley carded his second straight 63 and was two clear of Langley. After three rounds, the duo was tied for the lead.

Not only were they owning the top of the leaderboard, they were breaking records along the way. Henley set a new tournament record for 36 holes (126) and the pair shared the new 54-hole scoring record (193).

Langley, who played at the University of Illinois, needed a late rally in the final round to shoot 70. Despite failing to collect his first PGA Tour win, Langley earned $324,600, which put him about a third of the way to keeping his tour card for 2014 after his first official tour start.

Henley, on the other hand, continued to smash records in the final round.

The University of Georgia alum got pressured down the stretch by Tim Clark, who birdied the final four holes as he tried to gain his second tour win. Henley would have none of it as he did Clark one better with five consecutive birdies to finish out the round.

The 23-year-old finished the event with 26 birdies against two bogeys. His total of 24-under 256 set the new tournament scoring mark by four shots.

Henley became the first player since Bruce Lietzke in 1977 to win the Sony Open in his first attempt, and he became the first player since Garrett Willis in 2001 to win his first start as an official PGA Tour member.

If that all wasn't enough, he also posted the lowest score in PGA Tour history by a rookie. And his score was the second-lowest in tour history in a 72-hole event.

Heady stuff for the young man.

One may not have seen the record breaking coming, but winning on the PGA Tour wasn't very far fetched for Henley. He has won at every level.

Henley shares the Georgia record with seven career wins. After winning on the Web.com Tour as an amateur in 2011, he won two more events in 2012 to gain his PGA Tour card for this season.

Both of his wins last year came toward the end of last season on the Web.com Tour. In this last four starts of 2012, Henley went - win, solo third, win, tied for sixth.

He obviously carried that momentum through the offseason.

Henley will not be a one-trick pony. Maybe he'll settle in and be a solid tour pro the rest of this year, but there are plenty more victories out there for this new star.

FEW TOP COURSES HOST THE PGA TOUR

Golf Digest recently came out with their top 100 courses for 2013-14, and it's surprising how few of those courses actually host a PGA Tour event.

There are just eight courses in the top 100 that host a regular tour stop. If you toss in Merion's East Course, which will host this year's U.S. Open, the best players in the world are playing nine of the best courses in the country.

If you would like to see the PGA Tour pros on the top 100 courses this year, you've already missed one chance (the Plantation Course at Kapalua), but have eight more opportunities.

In order of event, here are the top-100 courses the tour plays:

Pebble Beach (Pebble Beach Pro-Am)

Riviera (Northern Trust)

Augusta National (The Masters)

Harbour Town (RBC Heritage)

TPC Sawgrass (The Players Championship)

Muirfield Village (The Memorial Tournament)

Merion East Course (U.S. Open)

Congressional (Blue Course) AT&T National

Augusta (No. 2), Merion (No. 6) and Pebble Beach (No. 7) are the top-rated courses the tour will visit this year.

Among the better courses on tour that aren't ranked in the top 100 are Torrey Pines (South Course), TPC Blue Monster at Doral, Bay Hill, Quail Hollow and Colonial.

If you asked the tour pros, they'd use the eye test and say that several courses not among the top 100 have every right to be there.

Suffice it to say, the raters that help Golf Digest come up the rankings have a difficult job and the rankings come from a plethora of variables, not just the quality of the golf course.

As for the individual clubs, they certainly have valid arguments against hosting these tournaments. Take Aronimink Golf Club, for example.

Having worked at the club leading up to the AT&T National in 2010 and 2011, the grandstands and corporate tents started being built the final week in April for an event that was taking place on July 4th weekend. In all, there were 15-16 weeks worth of work on the course before and after the event.

That means during half of the club's official golf season (April 1-Oct. 31), there was work going on at the course, either setting up for the tournament, or cleaning up and re-sodding after the event.

That is far from ideal for many courses, especially in the Northeast. Of course, this isn't the only reason not to host an event, but courses have their excuses.

I'd love to see more of the top courses host tour events, but each venue has to want that opportunity. Time for those courses to step up.

MINI-TIDBITS

* Over the weekend, I saw my first Masters commercial. Mind there are 13 official events before the year's first major, but that always gets me a little excited thinking spring is near.

* Big week for the players at the top of the world rankings. World No. 1 Rory McIlroy and No. 2 Tiger Woods are in Abu Dhabi, as are No. 5 Justin Rose and No. 11 Jason Dufner. Brandt Snedeker, world No. 8, is playing at the Humana Challenge. Five of the top 11 in the world playing this early in the season is pretty rare.


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