Another big moment, a bigger stage for Henley


Another big moment, a bigger stage for Henley

HONOLULU (AP) Russell Henley has delivered big moments before, just not to this degree, and certainly not on this kind of a stage.

Not even three months after he celebrated getting a PGA Tour card, Henley made his rookie debut with a three-shot win Sunday in the Sony Open that will not be forgotten anytime soon because of the sheer numbers.

He birdied the last five holes to shatter the tournament scoring record by four shots.

His score of 24-under 256 was the second-lowest in PGA Tour history for a 72-hole event, two shots behind Tommy Armour III in 2003 at the Texas Open.

He set the Sony Open record for the 36-hole score (126), shared the 54-hole tournament record with fellow rookie Scott Langley (193) and set another tournament record with the lowest closing round by a champion at 7-under 63.

About the only time he looked like a rookie was when he walked off the 18th green and said, ``I don't really know what happened.''

What he did was play some really good golf and rode a putting stroke that was pure over four days at Waialae Country Club.

He made 26 birdies - 18 of them on the par 4s, the most at this tournament in the last 30 years - and a collection of pars equally important. Henley, a 23-year-old from Georgia, made a 15-foot par putt with a foot of break on the sixth hole, and another par putt from 10 feet on the 12th hole to stay two shots clear of Langley and Tim Clark.

The rest was simply a blur. The final hour began with a 45-foot birdie putt on the 14th hole, and of his last four birdies, the only one inside 10 feet was on the 18th hole. Henley punched the air with a sweeping uppercut, the first time all day he allowed himself to think about winning and all that goes with it - particularly that trip to the Masters.

``It's been my goal to make it to the Masters my whole life,'' he said. ``I'm kind of speechless right now.''

Clark played in the last group, closed with a 63 and still finished three shots behind. He made seven birdies over his last 11 holes and only made up one shot on Henley.

``I gave it all I had, and he just played phenomenal,'' Clark said, a runner-up for the second time in three years at the Sony Open.

``He just never seemed to put a foot wrong, and when he did, he made those par putts,'' he said. ``That's when you know a guy is comfortable, when he's making those 8- to 10-footers for par. But I still got on the 15th hole and said, `Well, let's finish with four birdies and see what happens.' And sure enough, he birdied the last four, too. When a guy plays that well and beats you, you just have to be happy for them.''

Clark knew enough about Henley that this wasn't a total surprise.

Henley tied for low amateur - with Langley - in the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. A year later, he won a Nationwide Tour event while still at Georgia. And in his first year on the developmental tour, he won twice with clutch moments. He won his first Tour event by going from a fairway bunker into the water and making a 10-foot bogey putt to get into a playoff. He won a few weeks later by making a 20-foot birdie putt on the last hole to force another playoff.

``I've been in this situation a lot the last five or six tournaments,'' he said.

Henley became the first player to win in his debut as a PGA Tour rookie since Garrett Willis in the 2001 Tucson Open. That was played opposite the winners-only Mercedes Championships at Kapalua, so it wasn't a strong field. The Sony Open was the first full-field event of the year, featuring five Ryder Cup players.

``First pro PGA event, it's pretty cool to see him doing so well,'' Matt Kuchar said.

Henley walked into his news conference with two leis draped around his neck as he stared into his phone, talking on Face Time with his mother, Sally. He came to Hawaii on his own, and lamented that he had a lot of meals by himself.

That's about how he looked at times at Waialae. No one was around him.

Langley, tied for the lead at the start of the round, fell back quickly. He went over the back of the green into rough that made him wonder if his pitch shot would come out hot, and instead it didn't come close to reaching the green. He made bogey as Henley hit his approach into 3 feet for a birdie and a two-shot swing.

Langley three times missed birdie putts from 5 feet on the front nine, though he still was only two shots behind. He just couldn't keep pace. Langley closed with two birdies for a 70 to tie for third with Charles Howell III, who had a 66.

``I wish I would have played a little bit better today and made some more putts,'' said Langley, who missed three birdie putts of 5 feet on the front nine. ``But Russell played so awesome. I don't even know if I could have caught him.''

Howell, twice a runner-up at the Sony Open, had his lowest score ever at Waialae and was seven shots behind.

``Russell didn't falter one bit,'' Howell said.

Henley hasn't done anything wrong in about four months. In his past five tournaments dating to the end of September - four of those on the Tour - Henley is 73-under par. His scoring average in those five events is 67.15.

There's no telling where this will lead him. Thanks to his play on the Tour last year - No. 3 on the money list and two wins - Henley goes to No. 50 in the world. His win puts him in the Masters, PGA Championship, The Players Championship and the Bridgestone Invitational. And at No. 50 in the world and tied for the top of the FedEx Cup standings, he's likely to get into the next two World Golf Championships - the Match Play at the end of February, Doral in early March.

Not bad for his rookie debut in the big leagues.

``When you get up close and watch a guy play ... if that's how he putts all the time, whew! It's over,'' Clark said.

And it was.

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Caps prospect watch: Signing season?


Caps prospect watch: Signing season?

The 2018 NCAA Hockey Tournament bracket has been announced and only one Capitals prospect, Brian Pinho, is still in the running.

Providence College was selected as the No. 2 seed in the East Regional and will play No. 3 Clarkson in the first round on Friday, March 23 on ESPNU. The winner will play the winner of Notre Dame-Michigan Tech on Saturday with a chance to advance to the Frozen Four.

The college season is over for the rest of the Capitals' college prospects which begs the question, will any of them sign an entry-level deal with Washington?

In the spring when seasons end for colleges, junior leagues and European leagues, we see a flurry of signings across the NHL as teams sign their prospects and young free agents.

Among the Caps' college prospects, the most likely candidate to sign would be Shane Gersich. Gersich just wrapped up this third season at the University of North Dakota, finishing second on the team in goals (13) and tied for third in points (29). The Capitals will certainly make a push to sign him considering his talent and because if he returns to college for a fourth year, he stands to become a free agent on Aug. 15, 2019.

Brad Elliott Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald reported Wednesday that North Dakota was still awaiting Gersich's decision on whether he planned to return to college.

Quinnipiac defenseman Chase Priskie is in a similar situation, but it he has decided to head back to school for another season.

“That wasn’t a season I’d want to leave on,” Priskie told the New Haven Register. “When I came here as a freshman I saw our senior class, Garteig, St. Denis, Soren Jonzzon, and they left such a legacy that guys still talk about them. Same for Sam Anas and Devon Toews. They were all such great players and some of the best people for our program. When I leave, I want to be talked about like they are.”


Other prospect notes:

  • For Pinho, now a senior at Providence, this marks an opportunity for him to finish his college career the same way he began, with a national championship. “I don’t think I realized at the time how hard it is just to get back to the tournament,” Pinho told the New Haven Register. “So that’s something we older guys have been telling the younger guys. You never know when you’re going to be back and you have to make the most of it when you’re there.” (You can read the full feature on Pinho here)
  • The end of the season may suddenly be near for goalie prospect Ilya Samsonov. Metallurg Magnitogorsk finds itself down 3-1 in its series with Ak Bars in the KHL playoffs meaning their season could be over as early as Friday. Of course, the big news to watch after that is whether or not Samsonov would come to North America. If he does, he would most likely go to Hershey to play for the Bears. With only 10 games remaining on Hershey's schedule, however, the sooner Samsonov's team is ousted from the playoffs, the better. At least from a Washington perspective.
  • All three of Washington's WHL prospects have reached the WHL playoffs. Moose Jaw (Dmitriy Zaitsev) finished with the best record in the league and will play Prince Albert in the first round. Swift Current (Beck Malenstyn) finished second in the East Division behind Moose Jaw and will play Regina. Everett (Garrett Pilon) won the U.S. Division and earned the top seed in the Western Conference. They will play Seattle in the first round.
  • Dmitriy Zaitsev remains out after taking an illegal hit last week. He did not play in either of Moose Jaw's final regular season games, but was a full participant in practice on Wednesday.
  • Adam Carlson has found his groove in Kansas City. Playing for the Mavericks of the ECHL, he won each of his two starts this past week allowing only one goal on 43 shots. He was named the 2nd star of the game for both games.
  • Madison Bowey recorded an assist on Friday and two more for Hershey on Saturday for three over the weekend in his first week back with the Bears. Bowey has spent the majority of the season with the Caps, but the additions of Michal Kempny and Jakub Jerabek at the trade deadline meant there were just too many bodies up in Washington and not enough playing time to go around. As Bowey is waiver exempt, he became the odd-man out and was sent to the AHL. It would not be surprising to see him recalled by Washington when the NHL playoffs begin.
  • Defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler brought his goal total up to five for the season with two goals against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Monday. The Bears really wanted to emphasize his offensive game this season to see if Siegenthaler could be developed into a two-way player. His strength is definitely is on the defensive end of the ice, but he will be a more versatile player if he can also be a threat offensively as well. You can see the highlights of Siegenthaler's two-goal game here:

  • Forward Hampus Gustafsson was recalled to Hershey last week and did not wait long to make an impact. He scored his first career AHL goal on Friday. He also added an assist making that game his first career multi-point game as well.
  • Tyler Lewington was suspended two games by the AHL for a punch he delivered to Bridgeport's Scott Eansor in Friday's game.

Who are the Caps' top 10 prospects? Find out here in this week's updated rankings 

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Free agency update: What happens next for the Redskins on the defensive line?


Free agency update: What happens next for the Redskins on the defensive line?

The Redskins sure hosted a lot of free agent defensive line visits in the second week of free agency, but so far, no signed contracts. 

Johnathan Hankins came to Ashburn. Sylvester Williams came to Ashburn. Pernell McPhee came to Ashburn. All three left without a done deal, and now for Redskins fans, the question becomes not about when a deal will get done, but if any deals will happen.

Actually, one deal did happen. According to a report, Williams has signed with the Lions. 

Since visiting the Redskins on Monday, Hankins also took a trip to see the Lions. McPhee, who was offered a contract by the Redskins, has since taken a trip to visit the Falcons. 


Keep in mind too, Washington expressed interest in nose tackle Bennie Logan last offseason, and the 6-foot-2, 309 lb., former Chief is again on the market. A visit from Logan would surprise nobody, though it hasn't been reported yet. 

Mother Nature might also be an impediment for the Redskins. A March snowstorm shut the D.C. region down on Wednesday, which could have limited potential free agent visits.

What's clear is between Hankins, McPhee and Williams this week, in addition to Muhammad Wilkerson and Benson Mayowa last week, the Redskins are obviously looking to upgrade their defensive line. Combine that with a contract restructure for incumbent Terrell McClain, and Washington has the flexibility to improve on last season's NFL-worst run defense. 

That doesn't mean, however, the Redskins will absolutely sign one of the above mentioned players. And it doesn't mean outside linebacker Junior Gallete won't return to the Redskins either. 

Many fans wonder if a McPhee signing means the Redskins would move on from Galette. It might, but that's no sure thing. 

Washington went into the 2017 season with five outside linebackers: Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, Galette, Ryan Anderson and Chris Carter. Right now, the 'Skins only have Kerrigan, Smith and Anderson under contract. The team needs to add at least one OLB, but likely two.

McPhee also carries about 20 extra pounds on his frame than Galette, giving the former Bear and Raven more flexibility to play against the run. Galette is a speed, leverage and moves player, focused on getting to the quarterback. He's capable against the run, but in the same way a sports car shouldn't carry a snow plow, Galette should be used to pressure QBs. 

Point being: McPhee and Galette could both make sense for the Redskins, if the team can work out the cash. 

Money usually matters the most in free agency, and it's clear the Redskins haven't made the type of offers that any of these players felt compelled to immediately sign. Deals could still happen though. Hankins didn't sign last offseason until April and Galette seems to thank Redskins fans via social media with relative frequency. 

Washington also had some success with the patient approach to free agency. The team was able to keep Zach Brown, though it took some nervous days of allowing the tackling machine linebacker to test the free agent market. With that win in hand, don't expect the Redskins brass to change their philosophy. 

Until further notice, it's hurry up and wait season in Ashburn.

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