PALM BEACH GARDENS, Florida (Reuters) - Golfers prepare for competition in many different ways and for American Russell Henley, defending champion at this week’s Honda Classic, playing guitar is his preferred technique.
The 25-year-old Georgian joined rock band O.A.R. on stage last Saturday at Riviera Country Club after firing a two-under 69 in the third round of the Northern Trust Open.
“They were nice enough to let me play two songs with them that we had planned out Saturday after the round at Riviera and it was a blast,” Henley said on Tuesday.
“Then they actually called me up during the encore for the last song and told me the chords when I was on stage and turned my guitar back on, so that was really fun, getting a little bit of a bonus song there. So it is something I’ll always remember.”
Henley claimed his second PGA Tour title at last year’s Honda Classic after a four-man playoff with Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy, American Ryan Palmer and Scotland’s Russell Knox.
While many golfers on tour slip on headphones and listen to music while traveling between tournaments, Henley never leaves home without his guitar and plays it as part of his relaxation routine.
“I feel like when I‘m playing guitar and I‘m having to think about the chords or if I‘m attempting to sing, by myself of course, I think it puts my brain in a place where I can’t think about anything else,” said Henley.
“It kind of puts you in that zone where I have to turn the brain off for a little bit, so I hope it helps.”
Henley says the tough nature of the Champion Course at PGA National Resort, site of the Honda Classic, also helps him get into the right kind of focus.
“I’ve played pretty well here so far. Hopefully I can have another good week here. The one thing I’ve always noticed, what changes for me, or what I am more aware of, is my attitude,” said Henley.
“I‘m a little bit tougher and I‘m a little bit easier on myself on this course. Because it’s so hard, I know that if I can just hang around and keep making pars, maybe grab a birdie; if I just hang around the best I can, I feel like that’s what you have to do.”
Editing by Frank Pingue