KAPALUA, Hawaii (Reuters) - Russell Henley is known for his superb putting but even he was pleasantly surprised by his stunning form on the greens as he seized a one-shot lead in Friday’s opening round at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
The 25-year-old American sank 14 of 14 putts from 15 feet or less on the way to a flawless eight-under-par 65 at Kapalua Resort in the opening PGA Tour event of the year, and the eighth in the wrap-around season for 2014-15.
A burst of five birdies in his first seven holes gave Henley a flying start and he picked up three more shots after the turn on the hilly Plantation Course to end the day a stroke in front of South Korean Bae Sang-moon.
“If I can putt like that every day, I would probably have a few more wins,” a smiling Henley, a two-time champion on the PGA Tour, told reporters after totaling only 27 putts.
”I kept the ball in front of me pretty decent today, and didn’t scare too many chances at bogey, but my main thing was obviously I putted great and was seeing the lines today.
“It’s just one of those days where things worked out and I was reading the putts correctly and exactly how I wanted to hit them and that led to me making some putts.”
Henley clinched his maiden PGA Tour title at the 2013 Sony Open after storming home with five consecutive birdies to cap a final-round studded with several stunning clutch putts.
He followed up with a playoff victory at last year’s Honda Classic to book his place in the elite winners-only field of 34 for this week’s event at Kapalua, and has always had great self-belief in his putting ability.
”I‘m confident in my putting,“ said Henley. ”I’ve always been pretty confident with it. That definitely doesn’t happen every day for anybody, and today was just one of those days where it happened for me.
“If I knew how to do that every day, I would do it. Just try to keep a good attitude and go out there and hit a good next shot and give myself a good putt. Just one of those days where it fell in.”
Editing by John O'Brien