Russell Henley was reminiscing about his win at the Sony Open in 2013, in his first-ever PGA Tour start, when he admitted that, for a teeny-tiny second, he thought that golf “might be easier than I thought.” “But it’s not,” he quickly added. Then laughed. He’s right, of course. Then again, through 54 holes at this year’s Sony, it’s not as if things have been all too hard, either. Here are three things you need to know after Saturday’s third round at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu.
Russell Henley leads
Henley’s best maybe came after his worst.
On the par-4 13th, after coming up short of the green on his second stroke, he came short on his third, too, duffing the shot into a greenside bunker from just 48 yards out — only to get up and down, exhale and add two birdies on his way to the clubhouse. He finished with a three-under 67, an 18-under total and a two-shot lead over Hideki Matsuyama, and a four-shot advantage over Matt Kuchar, Haotong Li, Seamus Power and Adam Svensson.
“Yeah, I figured it wouldn’t be quite as easy as the first two days,” Henley said. “It’s just not how golf works typically. I wasn’t planning on making bogeys, but definitely wasn’t expecting to shoot eight-under again.
“But at the same time, I felt really good about my game all day. I never really got too nervous or too ahead of myself. I feel like I stayed in every shot, one shot at a time, and had really good focus the whole day. I’m pleased and just tried to do the best I could.”
Entering Sunday, Henley will be seeking his fourth PGA Tour win, not that he’s not had other opportunities to add to his haul. Most notably, he was tied for the lead at last year’s U.S. Open entering the final day, then shot a five-76 and tied for 13th.
“I’ve slept on a few leads the last couple years,” Henley said. “It’s hard. I struggle to sleep. I’m already not the best sleeper.
“But, yeah, I mean, the thing is, you look at what Hideki did today, he shot seven-under. Guys are so good out here. You just have to play at such a high level for so long to be in contention. So hopefully I can keep doing that and play well tomorrow, give myself a chance on the back nine.”
Hideki Matsuyama is two shots back
Matsuyama shot the day’s low round, a seven-under 63. And four of his seven birdies came on putts of 9 feet or longer — he dropped a 9-footer on 2, a 37-footer on 13, a 13-footer on 15, and a 13-footer on the 18th.
“Probably putting was my strong point today,” he said. “Even my missed putts found the hole.”
A reporter asked how that happened.
“I was lucky today,” last year’s Masters champ said.
Power and Svensson each shot 65s, Kuchar a 67 and Li a 68, which included a back nine that featured three birdies, one bogey and one double bogey.
“Well, another great day,” Li said. “Any day you shoot under par is a good score. But I found my putting not as hot as normal and had a couple bad tee shots.”